Ralph Johnson had a sailor’s heart – he was full of love for the sea and his favorite sport that it supported for most of his life, Ralph was better known as Bruggadung.
Subsequently when he acquired his locally designed and built (1984) Burke 10m racing yacht, he named it Bruggadung, a yacht that epitomized everything Ralph really enjoyed: speed, agility, wits, strategy and camaraderie.
Jean Trudo from Martinique remembers Ralph from before the Bruggadung days; Jean fondly remembers first meeting Ralph racing his yacht Virgo at the PSV Regatta in 1984, becoming lifelong sailing friends. As one of the patriarchs of sailboat racing in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ralph helped to promote the racing regattas in the region, filling his racing season with local and regional regattas, in which he and his crew brought home top prizes and huge stories.
In the late 1980’s, Ralph and his Bruggadung crew proudly represented Barbados in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, better known as the ARC race, racing the boat from the Canary Islands to Barbados in record time, and winning their class and the admiration of every Bajan person. He was a man that made others more aware of how great our island nation truly is.
Ralph mentored sailors of all ages and brought young and old crew on board: most would stay loyal to him for over 30 years of racing throughout the Eastern Caribbean, changing to whichever new yacht that Ralph thought would go a bit faster and increase his joy in the sport of sailboat racing.
Over his sailing lifetime, Brugga also contributed to the sport of sailing by heading the boards of the Barbados Sailing Association, the Caribbean Sailing Association as well as the Barbados Olympic Association, where he was able to pass on his knowledge and ideas to others. At the BOA, he was able to help the sport of sailing become a better organized by guiding the Barbados Sailing Association into a respectable role as the Member National Authority for our country. He taught us all how to work hard for the vision of sport for the island and the region.
Ralph was not only a sailor; his exploits in Squash and Motor Racing are part of his legend. As a formidable and successful businessman he made a huge contribution to the development of Barbados and through generous sponsorship contributed greatly to sporting development.
Every sailor on this island, young or old, knows Ralph ‘Brugga’ Johnson either personally, or through all the stories that have been gathered over the years about the great man. Best are the ones involving fast maneuvers on the water whilst racing that were redeemed after the race with 100 Mount Gay rums on the bar. Ever a generous man, and always willing to admit when he was wrong, the rums were a way to bring everyone back together after losing a protest or claiming a victory. Brugga had great spirit and sportsmanship and will continue to be a model for many sailing generations to come. The Barbados Sailing Association and every Bajan sailor mourns the loss of one of our great sailors and one of the giants of sports in Barbados.