A memorial service for Tom will be held April 29, 2023, at the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to “Read to Rover” (c/o Olympic Mountain Pet Pals organization, www.ompetpals.org); or the American Legion, P.O. Box 0042, Stanwood, IA 52337.
For those who would like to attend the memorial, but can’t be in San Francisco for the service, below is the zoom link.
Seventh Avenue Church is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Tom Speer Memorial
Time: Apr 29, 2023 01:30 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 837 3229 4456
From Diane, on May 14, 2023. A thank you, photo, for sharing and bringing so many of Tom’s Oracle shirts and other Oracle goodies. I’m glad to have a shirt from the winning team that Tom was part of. Many of us at the last multihull club meeting brought home a shirt. Left to right in photo is Shaun, Jess, Ginnie Jo, Mark, Diane, Ed, Eric, Scott, Vince. I think some others received a shirt too but left before the photo was taken.
Tom was a member of NWMA for more than 20 years. He joined the F-24 Amadeus partnership then bought a Chris White designed Hammerhead 34 which he moored in Port Orchard then in Poulsbo. Sailing and design became a larger part of his life after he retired from Boeing and moved to Kitsap County where we are surrounded by water. We messed with my small boats, carpooled to Multihull meetings and speculated about many dubious entries during “The Ruckus” preceding each Race to Alaska. He sailed the Van Isle 360 several times including the eventful capsize of 3D with the David Miller, Paul Miller and Joe Miller.
He freely gave calibrated opinions as a very accomplished aeronautical engineer and developed his own design tools, still free on his webpage, which can catapult designers over numerous pitfalls: http://tspeer.com
He agile ability to translate his visualization of fluid flows, from high Mach numbers to heavily loaded hydrofoils, was able to punch through the social awkwardness that is a foundational component of so many engineers.
Tom came to the attention of the sailing world through his informative, analytical and well explained postings on SailingAnarchy.com. He was soon recruited to assist Team USA with engineering design decisions for three amazing America’s Cup campaigns developing incredible multihulls with Oracle’s Larry Ellison’s collection of international talent. This included perhaps the greatest sporting comeback of all time!
Toward the end of his battle with cancer, I asked if there was anything he needed. He answered, “Time – but nobody can get more of that”. He was expecting the arrival of a visitor from the Oracle team, so I answered a knock at the door. It was Mike, the design team leader. In an amazing act of friendship, he had driven straight from the airport after the marathon flight from New Zealand to share those precious last days with camaraderie and respect for the humble intellect and spirit we so admired.
After his passing, I wrote up this first notice for Sailing Anarchy. Below that, his wife Kathy and family members contributed to his obituary in his hometown newspaper in Stanwood Iowa,
Tom Speer passed away at home on November 8th after a year plus battle with cancer. He attacked his medical condition with an engineering precision and characteristic optimism, hopeful that the state-of-the-art cancer immunotherapies might prevail. He documented the decisions in his detailed, yet matter-of-fact style, sharing via a Caring Bridge journal.
His online writings conveyed his logical approach, with clear explanations of everything related to fluid flows around sails, wings, hulls and hydrofoils permeating the discussions of boats (including dirt boats) and airplanes on many internet sites.
Raised with three siblings in Iowa, he graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering. His interest in sailing grew from modifying his family’s canoe to sailing dinghies with the university sailing club yet his aeronautical expertise led to an Air Force career improving and testing aircraft flight control systems. He was stationed at Edwards AFB, California, Dayton Ohio, Cold Lake Alberta, and southern England where liquid water allowed him to sail a Cherub dinghy.
Boeing hired him in the Seattle area where he excelled on the KC-46 aerial tanker project. I met him 22 years ago when buying some hydrofoil extrusions he had listed in Multihulls Magazine. He soon visited my waterfront home and sailed my Slatts 22 hydrofoil stabilized tacking outrigger with me. He tirelessly refined his plans to build a foiling trimaran with his updated concepts evolved from Dave Kieper’s Williwa. Basiliscus (one who runs on water) was his name on Sailing Anarchy.
I invited him to attend a meeting of the Northwest Multihull Association. He soon bought a partnership in an F-24 trimaran and explored Puget Sound. He bought a Chris White designed 34’ trimaran in Texas with the intent to modify it into his hydrofoil testbed. He instantly gained the respect of my father, a retired test pilot, while crewing on his F-33 tri.
When racing around Vancouver Island in the Van Isle 360 on a carbon and foam F-9A, Tom determined that body heat could be conserved by warming a spot on the overturned hull until rescuers arrived more than 24 hours later. Perhaps this experience led him to obtain the house heating super-computer cluster which occupied his basement and ran his fluid dynamic simulations for his consulting business.
His patient, professorial illustrations of complex engineering concepts attracted a following on the internet and the attention of the America’s Cup syndicates delving into unleashing the extreme performance potential of multihulls, wings and foils. The Oracle Team USA lured him on to their tribe of wizards which produced a string of astounding victories.
His quiet retirement diverged further from plan when he moved near Team Oracle’s development base in the Bay Area and met his future wife Kathy. She joined him in traveling to several regatta locations and eventually a house hidden away on Hood Canal. Two well trained dogs attentively awaited their adventurous walks on nearby trails through the deep northwest forest.
Chasing his curiosity down untrodden paths eventually led to Tom hoisting the “Auld Mug” overhead after reaching the pinnacle of the sailing world known as the America’s Cup. How can you top that? Win it a second time!
Tom continued to satisfy his curious mind with experimental radio controlled aircraft hand built with the hot-wire cutting, vac-u-forming, 3-D printing and laser cutting tools of the trade that crowd his warm basement lair.
I am fortunate to have years of shared experiences with such a friend who will be missed by so many. In aerodynamic engineering parlance; the flow has separated…
Thomas Edward. Speer, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and aerospace engineer, passed away peacefully on Nov. 8, 2022, from cancer, attended to by his wife Kathy and son Sean. Born at McConnell AFB in Wichita, Kan., and raised in Stanwood, Iowa, Tom was the eldest son of Dr. Edward and Lenora Speer.A National Merit Finalist in high school, Tom went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1975. After completing ROTC, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Force and began his career as an aeronautical engineer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He was chosen to attend the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB in California, where he graduated with top honors as a flight test engineer in 1980.
Tom’s subsequent assignments were with the Canadian Air Force at Cold Lake in Alberta, Canada, then at Wright Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, where he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology and worked as the control system integration manager for the Short Take Off and Landing/Maneuver Technology Demonstrator aircraft. He later served as chief of aeronautical engineering for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in London, and then returned to Edwards AFB, where he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1996.
Following his time in the Air Force, Tom joined the Boeing Corporation in Seattle, where he worked for 14 years in a variety of programs. He was a principal engineer on the Tier III- DarkStar unmanned aircraft program and the Lead Engineer for the KC-767 Aerial Refueling Boom control law development among other projects. He was recognized by Boeing for his outstanding work attaining the level Boeing Associate Technical Fellow, and holds 19 patents under his name.
Tom’s passion for sailing began when he was young and continued throughout his life. His expertise in aerodynamics, flight testing, and flight mechanics made him a valuable member of the engineering design team for the 33rd America’s Cup. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as a consulting engineer for BMW Oracle Racing, where he helped design and build the massive trimaran USA-17. In February 2010, USA-17 went on to win the 33rd America’s Cup races in Valencia, Spain, bringing the Cup back to America. President Obama recognized the AC-33 BMW Oracle Team, including Tom and the design team, at the White House.
After retiring from Boeing in 2010, Tom joined Oracle Team USA as wing designer for the 34th America’s Cup, raced in spectacular 72 ft AC72 wing-sail foiling catamarans. These were the fastest sailboats ever to compete for the America’s Cup, reaching speeds of 50 miles per hour (more than twice the speed of the wind) and cost over $10 million to build. In the longest match racing series in AC history, Oracle Team USA defeated Emirates Team New Zealand 9-8 in September 2013 on San Francisco Bay, with a stunning, eight race come-from-behind win. Tom was widely recognized for his wing-sail design for AC-33 and AC-34 and was widely quoted in numerous print and on-line sources, including the LA Times, Sail Magazine, Sailing World, and the British sailing publication Seahorse Magazine. Tom was frequently invited to speak on wing-sail aerodynamics and one of his presentations from 2014 is available online.
In 2013 Tom joined his third AC design team for the 35th America’s Cup held in Bermuda in 2017. For AC-35 Tom designed hydrofoils and wing-sails and created a dynamic velocity prediction program used to optimize Oracle Team USA’s 50ft AC50 wing-sail foiling catamarans. He was once again working with the finest yacht designers and sailors in the world, racing the most extreme fast boats.
Tom will be remembered as a brilliant engineer, a skilled sailor, and a loving husband and father.
He is survived by his wife, Dr. Kathy Long; son, Sean (Imogen); stepsons, Brett Ryder and Cory Daiker (Kim); mother, Lenora Speer; brother, Brad (Janet); sisters, Kristin Morgan (Richard Morgan) and Kymberly Speer (Charles Cuda); one grandson; two step-granddaughters; and numerous nieces and nephews. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.