Sally Helme, Marine Industry Icon Passes

Sailing World's influential publisher is remembered for her impact on the sport and her influence across the marine industry.
Sally Helme
Sailing World‘s Publisher Emeritus, Sally Helme, led the magazine as its publisher since 1998 and is remembered for her unwavering time and commitment to the marine industry. Courtesy The Sailing Company

It is with a heavy heart that we share the passing of Sally Helme, a remarkable figure whose unwavering commitment to advancing women’s participation in sailing has left an enduring legacy. Sally was more than a sailor; she was a visionary leader who championed equality, empowerment and excellence. Her journey began as a spirited young woman from Shelter Island sailing for her college team at Princeton; but it was her subsequent involvement that truly set her apart as she earned coveted seats on numerous boards and committees dedicated to promoting sailing.

As the first female publisher in the sailing industry, Sally’s tenure at two widely read and respected sailing magazines reshaped the narrative. She believed in the power of representation, advocating for positive depictions of women – captains, crew, and adventurers – across glossy pages. Through captivating photos and insightful articles, she illuminated the challenges, triumphs, and sheer joy of life on the water.

In 1994, she joined the New York Times Magazine Group as Associate Publisher. Her responsibilities spanned two iconic sailing titles: Cruising World and Sailing World Magazines. Under her leadership, these publications became essential reading for sailors worldwide. By 1998, she had ascended to the position of Publisher for both titles, a role she would hold for more than two decades.

Sally’s influence extended beyond print; it rippled across regattas and events. As Group Publisher, she oversaw not only Cruising World and Sailing World, but also the National Offshore One Design (NOOD) regattas…an integral part of the sailing calendar. In 2020, Sally transitioned to the esteemed role of Publisher Emeritus under the Bonnier Group.

Sally understood that sailing wasn’t just about wind and tides; it was about freedom, confidence and the bonds forged under open skies. As a past president of Sail America – an essential trade association – she tirelessly advocated for sailing-related products and services. Her impact reverberated through organizations like Sail Newport and US Sailing, where her wisdom and passion guided decisions that shaped our maritime landscape. As a true leader within the National Sailing Hall of Fame for more than 15 years, Sally tirelessly worked to honor the legacy of sailing’s pioneers, reminding us that the skills learned on the water carry into life lessons for all.

As we bid farewell to Sally, we honor her spirit, her resilience and her unwavering belief in the transformative power of sailing. We are truly grateful for the excellent work she did as Chair of the Sailing Hall of Fame Selection Committee. She was an important leader in the marine industry and the sport of sailing. Sally leaves behind a wake of inspiration, urging us all to hoist our sails, embrace the horizon and navigate life’s currents with courage and grace. She will be missed.

Fair winds, Sally Helme. May your legacy sail on.