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Steady course: Madison attorney’s sailing hobby sets his path (PHOTO SLIDESHOW)

Dave Gorwitz sails across Lake Mendota on a friend’s boat May 5 just outside Madison. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack )

Dave Gorwitz admits he did not take up sailing for noble reasons.

As a co-ed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1979, Gorwitz said, he just wanted a chance to mingle with the opposite sex.

“There I was, sitting on the Terrace during summer school, looking out over the lake and all the pretty sailboats and thinking, ‘That would be a really good way to meet girls.’”

He promptly joined the university’s sailing club and started taking lessons. His new hobby eventually led him to the right girl: his wife, Lori.

Gorwitz met Lori when he rented space from her parents in 1989 to open a small shop called The Sailboat House, in Middleton.

One day a lawyer, Hal Harlowe, came to the shop to buy a boat for a slip outside his office on Lake Mendota. Gorwitz refused to sell him one until Harlowe learned how to sail however, and instead offered to take him out on the lake.

The two became fast friends and as the years went on, Harlowe encouraged Gorwitz to attend law school and go into business with him

“Finally he beat me down and I agreed to take the LSAT,” Gorwitz said. “The rest is history.”

Gorwitz sold the sailboat store and joined Hal Harlowe & Associates immediately after his 2005 graduation.

The firm dissolved last month and Gorwitz, 52, is now with Neider & Boucher SC, Madison.

But his passion for sailing remains a constant. During the warm weather months, Gorwitz sails two or three nights per week after work, he said, and most Sundays. Winter brings the ice boating season and sailing trips to Key West or other warm locales.

Sailing appeals to his competitive side, he said, much like his law career.

“Mostly, I like the camaraderie, the intensity, and the competition of the racing end of sailing. I like to win. I don’t like to lose. I think a lot of lawyers are like that,” Gorwitz said. “So I can feed the competitive fire through the sport.”

He’s been on sailboat racing teams that finished in the top five for major international regattas, he said.

He’s also lost many races, however, he conceded with a chuckle.

Among the highlights of his racing career was leading a “ragtag team” competing in the local yacht club championship when he was fresh out of college, Gorwitz said. They went up against experienced sailors with much better boats – and won. It was his first sailing victory.

Not long afterward, they went to a regatta in Chicago. They were in last place every day of the three-day event, competing against Olympians.

“But these world champions took the time in between races to stop by and coach us. It would be like watching the Packers practice, and then having Aaron Rodgers stop by afterward to say, ‘Hey, want to throw a ball around?’”

Sailing continues to challenge him, he said, which is why it remains a passion.

“It’s something you can never master,” Gorwitz said. “The more you do it, the more you realize you still have to learn. So it’s a constant challenge.”

What started as a simple ploy to meet girls has become an anchor upon which many of his major life decisions have been based, he said.

“Sailing got me my wife. It got me into law school. It got me a job after law school. Now I have clients that I’ve met through the local sailing clubs,” Gorwitz said. “Sailing has been good to me, and it’s been a thread throughout my life.”

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