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Fill the Hall

Get ready to submit your nomination for the Sailing Hall of Fame. "Editor's Letter" from our March 2012 issue.

February 24, 2012

When I first heard of plans for a physical Sailing Hall of Fame to be built in Annapolis, I was excited. I’m a sucker for these sorts of hallowed halls, decorated with memorabilia and icons of history. I’m looking forward to the day when they actually start laying bricks, but the capital campaign, I’m told, is like a slow-rising tide.

Without an actual building to commemorate the greats, what could the purveyors of the Sailing Hall of Fame do to get our attention? Get the inductions rolling. Yes, for the time being, it’s just another list to join the countless others, but they had to start somewhere.

In October 2010, the daunting process to elect the first class was put in motion. One year later, a mere 15 legendary sailors were skimmed from the top of hundreds of nominees, individuals culled from centuries of sailing icons and achievements—and not just competitive sailing. Imagine how many quality candidates missed the cut. Even more staggering is the number of worthy hall of famers who weren’t even considered in the first place.

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A friend shared his opinion on the day the Hall of Fame announced its first class. “Geez, that’s a pretty predictable bunch,” he said with a tone of disdain. “It’s the America’s Cup old boy’s club again.”

On the one hand, he was right. Of the first 15 inductees, six are, for the most part, associated with the America’s Cup, which is not surprising given the prominence we bestow upon the Cup as the pinnacle of our sport.

But I put it right back to my friend: “So, who did you nominate?”

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Of course, he hadn’t, and therein lies the systemic shortcoming of any public induction process. But it’s one we can help fix. The Hall of Fame rightly accepts nominations from anyone (through its website and in writing), and the nominations simply add to an existing list established from Sailing World’s own Hall of Fame. A selection panel must choose a pre-determined number of inductees from this list (15 in 2011, and up to 10 in 2012). The top remaining candidates (there’s a mathematical formula involved) automatically go back into the rotation for consideration the following year.

As it stands today, the nominee list is skewed with the household names of racing sailors, and it is by no means complete. It’s notably thin on unheralded amateurs, cruising sailors with epic voyages, and especially “contributors” (i.e., coaches and administrators) who have impacted the sport in ways unknown. To ensure a broader representation of sailing in the Hall, I encourage you to participate in the nomination process. Doing so, however, will be more than simply dropping a name into a hat: you must be prepared to present a solid case for consideration.

Open nominations will be accepted at www.nshof.org between April 1 and June 1, so spend the time now to bolster support for your nomination. Assemble a committee to share the load, to collect facts, photos, and supporting documents. I promise you one thing will happen as a result of the exercise: you’ll gain a far better appreciation for your nominee, and so will the selection committee, and hopefully, the curious sailor browsing the Hall itself.

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