Friends mourns the passing of sailing pioneer and Island friend George Hansen

Three sailboats fly their spinnakers during Bayfield Race Week

October 11, 2022

George Hansen

If you have been in Bayfield in the days surrounding the Fourth of July and seen the bay filled with the colorful sails of Bayfield Race Week, you have witnessed at least a part of the legacy of George M. Hansen.

Hansen, the founder of Bayfield’s famous Race Week and a long-time supporter and member of Friends of the Apostle Islands passed away in his sleep on October 4th at his home in Medina, Minnesota.

Born September 25, 1936, Hansen grew up in Minneapolis, served as a tank commander in the Army, and worked as an accountant for Haskins & Sells as well as the George M. Hansen Company for many years.

But, according to his family, “his passion for entrepreneurship, building and managing businesses, and the great outdoors, led him to pursue other opportunities. For 20 years George would dedicate himself to the boat business including Port Industries, Inc. and Hansen Yachts, through which he was instrumental in developing Port Superior Marina and the greater sailing community in the Apostle Islands area.”

Sailboats racing with a forest green shoreline in the distance

Bayfield Race Week

His love of sailing and the islands led Hansen to become one of the founders and prime forces behind Bayfield Race Week, a premier sailing event that has become the centerpiece of the Apostle Islands sailing season drawing boats from as far away as Canada, Florida, and all over the Midwest. The races, which fill the Bay with colorful sails, have become a part of the flavor and culture of Bayfield summer days.

Hansen turned his love of sailing and the islands into advocacy, serving on the Board of Directors of Friends of the Apostle Islands from 2004 until 2013 including holding such positions as Board Chair, Vice President, and Treasurer.

“George loved this lake and these islands deeply,” says Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke who served with Hansen on the organization’s Board of Directors in the early 2000’s. “He was a positive, upbeat champion for this area and our organization. He will be deeply missed but I will think of him every time I see a flock of sails on the horizon.”

Services will be held for George Hansen both in Wayzata, Minnesota and at a later date in his beloved Bayfield. In lieu of flowers, the Hansen family generously asks that donations be made to the George M. Hansen Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1574, Bayfield, WI 54814 or through our website at

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