published Thursday, July 9th, 2009

Volkswagen's officials like local lake


by Dan Cook
  • photo
    VW plant manager Frank Fischer with Steve Sherman on Chickamauga Lake

When engineer Thilo Brockhaus came from Germany to Chattanooga last December to oversee building the Volkswagen plant, he greatly appreciated the surroundings.

"I'm very happy we chose to come to Chattanooga," he said. "You know we explored a number of places. I was amazed because of the mountains and the water."

The water in general and sailing in particular pleased VW's construction project manager.

"My father liked to sail," Brockhaus said. "My parents sailed a lot around the Baltic Sea. My father chartered boats."

So when Brockhaus saw Chickamauga Lake, he reminisced about the sport that was such a part of his youth.

"(Realtor) George Patten helped us find a house and invited us for a Volkswagen sailing afternoon," he said.

Brockhaus later bought an MC Scow from Jim Prettyman and has applied for associate membership in the 59-year-old Privateer Yacht Club. The VW official's daughters, Ella and Clara, enrolled in learn-to-sail classes held out of PYC.

Germany requires much more licensing than this country for sailing, Brockhaus said. One license is required to sail inland, another for the sea.

"It's very complicated," said Brockhaus, who earned all of the licenses necessary in his homeland.

He made the acquaintance of longtime Chattanooga sailor Steve Sherman, owner of McLaughlin Manufacturing -- a Hixson company that includes sailboats among its products -- and asked for a tour of the local lake.

"The wind blew very well that day," Sherman said. "We all sailed up to Harrison Bay and went to the restaurant. We sailed back, and then they went rafting on the Ocoee River."

Most of the VW staff plan to buy boats once they've settled in here, Sherman said. Some are opting for sailboats, others for power boats.

Frank Fischer, North American VW chief operating officer, was among those who sailed with Sherman. Fischer, who will move to Chattanooga this fall, plans to enroll his son in sailing classes next June.

"Going up the river exposed the group to the beauty of the Tennessee Valley that you don't really see driving from downtown and up Bonny Oaks Drive," Sherman said. "Most of the group had no idea this area of the country was so beautiful."

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