Tim Hogan’s journey to Lifetime Achievement recognition by the National Sailing Hall of Fame began where many parents have found themselves: engaged in their children’s sailing lives and feeling richer for it. Hogan, however, was an accomplished sailor with an earned skepticism, and he was not impressed by everything he saw on the Southern California scene.
What Hogan did about that became his legacy.
As Hogan puts it: “In 1989, I was 40, involved in junior sailing at the yacht club, and I had four kids. My daughter was 12, the oldest. I didn’t know much about what the kids were doing in high school, but the doublehanded sailing wasn’t very organized. I got more involved, and the more I got involved, the more I grew as a person. The better the sailing, the more the kids grew too.”
He then went deep on the mission. As his kids grew and moved on, unlike so many parents who move on, Hogan kept on keeping on. The Tim Hogan story is also the story of how high school sailing—kids representing their schools—became an American institution. His citation in the Hall of Fame concludes: “Hogan’s contributions to the sport of sailing have had a significant impact on the lives of countless young people who discovered their love for sailing under his leadership.”
So, everything is just fine?
We didn’t say that.
Should college sailing rethink its relationship to Olympic sailing?
The pivotal year was 1989. Hogan says: “I walked into the office of Mike Segerblom, who was running college sailing on the West Coast, and we talked. Mike was building FJs, so we decided to start a Club FJ class. I got funding from CISA, the California International Sailing Association, and from Newport Harbor Yacht Club, my home club, and we bought six boats. Then I went to other clubs and convinced them to buy boats. We built a fleet.
“Was the Club FJ the best boat? No. But the colleges were using it, so we figured if what we were doing didn’t work out, the yacht clubs could sell the boats to colleges and get out.”
FJs are the West Coast boat to this day. Hogan continues: “Now I was involved, and in 1992, we hosted 12 teams for the Baker, the [high school] team race championships. In Newport Harbor. On Memorial Day weekend. With all the crowds of a Memorial Day Weekend. Big crowds. It was crazy. Corona del Mar High School won.”
Corona del Mar is local to Newport Harbor, and that was a turning point. Southern California would become a major player. Seven of the last 10 national-champion teams have come from Southern California. Hogan’s immediate focus remained local as he and others considered how high school sailing should work with yacht club sailing. “The Southern California Youth Yacht Racing Association was strong,” Hogan says, “but there was a void in doublehanded racing.”
The Tim Hogan story is also the story of how high school sailing—kids representing their schools—became an American institution.
What developed was a SoCal circuit, named for Olympic medalist John Shadden, that was “complementary, not competing.”
The Shadden is still a thing going into 2024, but Hogan was just getting started. He soon went regional, taking over PCISA, the Pacific Coast district, and running it for 15 years. “What was fun was getting further involved with CISA,” he says. “The elder Shadden, Tom, had started this national-level clinic in 1977, and all the Olympic hopefuls came. It was a good look. Roy Disney took a meeting and offered us $100,000 for youth sailing. But driving home, I started to wonder.”
Whoops. It’s 54 freeway miles from the media nexus of Burbank, north of Hollywood, to sail-happy Newport Beach, diagonally across Los Angeles and then across Orange County. That’s a lot of time to drive between the lines, think and wonder. Hogan says, “I called my cohort Robbie Haines and asked, ‘Was that $100K once or $100K a year?’ We checked. Hallelujah, it was every year.”
Disney funds went to the CISA clinic, to high school sailing, to sponsoring West Coast kids at Orange Bowl regattas, and to sending a few to race in Europe because, as Hogan says: “I thought it was our 17- and 18-year-olds, high school age, who should go to international events. College sailors compete so much that a lot of them are burned out when summer comes along.”
Under Hogan’s stewardship, PCISA grew to 70 schools between 1990 and 2005, when he took over at the national level with 350 schools in the Interscholastic Sailing Association. “The challenge was to get more kids sailing,” Hogan says. “I made it a point to go to all the venues because I can’t contribute if I haven’t seen where people sail and how they sail. Every area has its own problems, its own ways. I kept going because I loved it, and I’m still at it because it’s just plain satisfying. We have 625 schools now, 6,000 kids, 400 races a year. It’s successful because it’s a team sport, it’s coed, and the silver fleet that we added provides a second-level cushion of competition.”
There you have Hogan’s lifetime achievement. Did we mention that “the goal was to get more kids sailing”? Hogan was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame on November 4, 2023.
I spoke with him over Zoom, from San Francisco to Newport Beach, and we didn’t avoid the but-wait-a-minute topics that also arise. We didn’t resolve them either. Florida and Southern California sail year-round. Northern latitudes not so much. New England has a hard winter but a dense network, while the Midwest sprawls. And how does this relate to elite-level competition or college sailing? And what about the infamous Olympic disconnects?
Let’s take the elite level first. How many of those 6,000 high school kids are part of it? “Not many” is the answer. Specialized level-up training centers have grown in pockets all over the country. Hogan observes: “The Northeast has always done well in international youth sailing, in i420s, for example. I love i420s. They have all the adjustments, so you learn everything you don’t learn in an FJ or a C420.”
That automatically leaves out high school sailing or college sailing, which fit together hand in glove. The boats are the same, FJs or C420s, with rare exceptions, and the formats are nearly identical. One difference, Hogan says, is that high school sailing is growing, but “college sailing is a game of haves and have-nots, driven by the big schools.” (Hogan was the 1969 College Sailor of the Year while at USC.)
Most high school sailors aspire to sail in college. The first payoff comes when, as freshmen, they set foot on campus and already have their tribe. Before them lies an intense social experience characterized by Dean’s List sailors who study (seriously) in vans and on airplanes while fine-tuning a narrow set of superb sailing skills. The friendships within and across schools and teams—many of them renewed from high school—last a lifetime.
“We have 625 schools now, 6,000 kids, 400 races a year. It’s successful because it’s a team sport, it’s coed, and the silver fleet that we added provides a second-level cushion of competition.”
That enviable success, however, does not contribute to 21st-century trends in apparent-wind sailing, and it is not engineered to support Olympic aspirations.
Hogan says: “Olympic sailing in the US will always be challenged because, in the rest of the world, their best 18-year-olds don’t go to college. They get sponsored, probably by the national team. If they sail i420s, they go to European championships with 100-plus boats on the line. As Americans, we emphasize kids going to college straight out of high school, and college sailing can be intense. But look at college soccer. They take a month for pre-Olympic training. College sailing needs to back off and make space for Olympic-type sailing.”
OK, at that we sink a toe into a forever debate. We’re not going deep. Hogan, however, referenced Yale as a school that accommodates aspiring Olympians, and Yale is a success story in the college system. Yale coach Zack Leonard offers that he has volunteered on the Olympic Committee and has “always been supportive of sailors interested in the Olympic path.” He says: “I think most college coaches are. The other side of it is that college is a lot of work, and there is only so much time you can afford to be away.”
The Cowles twins, Carmen and Emma, 2018 Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year, came out of high school in Larchmont, New York, and deferred freshman year at Yale to pursue Olympic selection for 2020. They missed, coming second. Now both are College All-Americans. Carmen was the Women’s College Sailor of the Year in 2023. They no longer sail together in a 470 because of the new mixed-gender requirement, but they haven’t given up on the Olympics. Leonard says, “You get better sailors if you let them pursue their dreams.”
Rolling that back to kids in high school, and discounting a few who are in it just for a PE credit, that’s a lot of young sailors pursuing their dreams. Climbing out of the silver fleet to gold? College acceptance? Maybe the Olympics? Few teenagers know anything of the Hogan legacy, but that was never the point. And even though Hogan says that he has a succession plan for the ISSA presidency, he doesn’t sound like a man in a hurry to pass the baton.
“The founder of Newport Harbor Yacht Club was adamant that sailing was the best possible pursuit for young people—the best thing they could do to have fun, grow, and flick that elusive switch to learning how to guide themselves as they grow. That was Al Soiland on his soapbox beginning in 1916. Frankly, I think he got it right.”