Fueled by Adversity
Fueled by Adversity
The members of the first class inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame each reveal that a little hardship on the way to the top might just be a good thing. "Jobson Report" from our April 2012 issue.
The National Sailing Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the San Diego YC was a special day for me in many ways. It was humbling to be included among such a diverse group of inspirational sailors.
In the weeks before this magic day I immersed myself in the biographies of each of my fellow inductees, and while doing so, I discovered there was a thread that connected us. Maybe, I thought to myself as I listened intently to each of their speeches, adversity in its many different ways is what can propel a great sailor forward.
>> Betsy Alison was named Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year a record five times, an accomplishment no other American man or woman has ever achieved. In 1988, when women were granted a class in the Olympic Games, Alison was one of the athletes that tried to secure a berth. She tried three times in total, but never made the Olympic Sailing Team. Setback after setback, she never lost motivation. She moved on and now leads the U.S. Paralympic Team.
In 2008, SKUD skipper Nick Scandone was battling Lou Gehrig’s disease. He and his crew Maureen McKinnon-Tucker qualified earlier that year to race in the Sonar class in China. His health was deteriorating rapidly and Alison and Tucker were relentless in helping Scandone prepare for what was a gold-medal winning effort. For Alison, it was a bigger victory than had she won her own medal.
>> Hobie Alter rode the surfing craze to success as a craftsman of surfboards in his small shop beginning in 1958. While surfing was satisfying, he could see the potential to get more people on the water through sailing. Combining his love of both sports he designed a 14-foot catamaran called a Hobie Cat. Today there are 18 models of Hobie Cats and more than 100,000 boats on the water bearing his name. It took considerable courage and commitment to shift from surfboards to beach cats, but the sport is better because of it.
>> Charlie Barr was a three-time winning America’s Cup helmsman by the age of 37 in 1903. Two years later, Wilson Marshall, owner of the three-masted schooner Atlantic, wanted to hire Barr to skipper his boat in a race across the Atlantic Ocean. Barr was reluctant to do the race because his wife was very ill. But, as he contemplated the challenge of racing across the ocean, he realized a big payday could be helpful to his wife. He accepted the job and pushed Atlantic hard, winning the race and setting a record that stood for 100 years.
>> Paul Cayard is one of only a few sailors to skipper for both a challenger and a defender in the America’s Cup (1992 and 1995), but both were unsuccessful campaigns in the end. Undaunted by such failures, Cayard took his natural skills to ocean racing and made a comeback in the grueling Whitbread Race. He was comfortable in the ocean, and after 33,000 miles he became the first American skipper to win the around-the-world race.
>> Dennis Conner was at the top of his game in 1983, but his 12 Metre Liberty was off the pace compared to challenger Australia II, which featured an innovative wing keel. Conner took the best-of-seven series to a final race, but in the end lost to the Aussies. It took several months for him to recover from the crushing defeat, but he slowly regained his drive to compete and mounted a challenge. Over the next thee years he built three new boats, recruited a top crew, and trained aggressively in the big winds off Hawaii. In 1987, Conner and his team aboard Stars & Stripes reclaimed the trophy, becoming national heroes in the process.
>> Nathanael Greene Herreshoff was a brilliant engineer as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, set on developing a steam engine. Unfortunately, one of his experimental engines blew up. There were fatalities, and the young Herreshoff lost his license to work on steam engines. After the tragedy he shifted his focus and went on to build yachts. Between 1893 and 1920 he designed, built, and sailed on six successful America’s Cup defenders. And, for good measure, he later improved the steam engine.