He bought his first boat in 1951, a Lightning, and is still active in the Class, nearly 60 years later! He won his first North American Championship in 1954, his eighth in 1970, and was crowned World Champion four times.
In the early 1960’s Tom wanted to make some adjustments to his boat, but couldn’t find anyone to do the work he envisioned, so he founded the Allen Boat Company and started building winning boats. Often he’d take a new boat to compete at a regatta, and his results were so impressive that fellow competitors would offer to purchase his boat on the spot. Tom would return home to build another before the next event!
To date the Allen Boat Company, now headed-up by his son, Tom Allen Jr., has built hundreds of winning boats, helping the Lightning Class become one of the largest fleets in the country. Sailing Lightings has been a long-standing family tradition for the Allen clan, and Tom is quick to point out his family’s accomplishments with pride. One of the highlights was winning the World Championship in 1977 with his children (Tom, Jr. and Brenda, then 16 and 19) onboard as crew. He often races with his wife Anne, a very accomplished sailor, current President of the Lighting Class Association, and recently elected the first female commodore of the Buffalo Canoe Club. “All of my children and now all of my grandchildren sail,” he says “The Lightning Class has been good for us as a family, because there are so many variables; it changes and keeps everyone interested.”
Although Tom has raced and won in countless national and international championships, he enjoys sailing “right at home” at the Buffalo Canoe Club best. His favorite aspect of sailing is the camaraderie among sailors. Tom adds, “a day of racing in pleasant conditions with a cook-out afterwards, that’s a pretty good day.”