National Sailing Hall Of Fame Inductees

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The 2015 Nationals Sailing Hall of Fame Inductees. Top to bottom, from left: Gregory Merrick, who accepted the posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for his father Sam Merrick; Paul Foerster; JJ Fetter; Meade Gougeon, who accepted on behalf of his late brother Jan Gougeon as well; and Steve Colgate. (Photo by Thérèse Wagner)
The 2015 Nationals Sailing Hall of Fame Inductees. Top to bottom, from left: Gregory Merrick, who accepted the posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award for his father Sam Merrick; Paul Foerster; JJ Fetter; Meade Gougeon, who accepted on behalf of his late brother Jan Gougeon as well; and Steve Colgate. (Photo by Thérèse Wagner)

The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) is a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to, among other things, preserving the history of the sport and its impact on American culture and honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing.

Earlier this month, the NSHOF held their fifth Induction Weekend at the Jersey Shore’s “Gold Coast.” The members of the 2015 class of inductees were six of the sport of sailing’s significant contributors. They were honored during ceremonies that were the highlight of a weekend of activities at Bay Head Yacht Club. The inductees include sailing school founder Steve Colgate (Ft. Myers, FL), Olympic medalist Paul Foerster (Rockwall, TX), Olympic medalist and author JJ Fetter (San Diego, CA), boat-building innovators and brothers Meade and Jan Gougeon (Bay City, MI) and U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee Director Samuel V. Merrick (Medford, NJ) were the recipients of the NSHOF’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.

In their remarks the inductees were remarkably consistent: each had taken any and every opportunity to learn from others, and each knew they could not have achieved their success without significant support from others.

Colgate was chosen because area sailors and racers are familiar with the Colgate 26, which can been seen racing with the Thirsty Thursday group during the warm sailing months. Colgate has deep roots in the area; he learned to sail in Lightnings and the family Atlantic in Cold Spring Harbor when he was 9 years old. He was good at it, but the sea didn’t seduce him until he started sailing big boats as a teenager. The 1955 race to Spain on the 72-footer, Mare Nostrum, is when, as he says, “it took me.” He went on to establish a stunning record in a variety of boats—including 5.5- and 12-meters—forging a reputation as a calming influence on board; as a good tactician with excellent judgment.

OTB-backgroundColgate had lucrative career choices, however, he applied his calming approach to the Offshore Sailing School which he founded in 1964 in New York. Beginning with two boats and two instructors, the school has grown to eight locations and more than 40 Colgate 26s, a highly regarded boat he collaborated on with designer Jim Taylor. He authored a much-needed textbook on sailing (one of nine books he’s written). “I instinctively set up the school for all types of learning,” Colgate said, “visual—the book; audio—instruction; and kinesthetic—on the water. First there’s classroom theory, then we go on the boat and do it, all in three days.” It worked, and it’s still working. Colgate has taught 130,000 people how to sail.

The process of choosing inductees is extensive. Following a two-month period last spring during which sailors from all corners of the country nominated their choice for induction, a selection committee comprised of representatives from U.S. Sailing, the sailing media, the sailing industry, community sailing, a maritime museum, a previous inductee and the NSHOF Board—reviewed the broad spectrum of nominations.

To be nominated you must be an American citizen, 45 years of age or older, who has made a significant impact on the growth and development of the sport in the U.S. in the categories of sailing, technical/design and contributor (coach, administrator, sailing media). Nominations of noncitizens were also considered if they influenced the sport in the U.S., and posthumous nominations were also accepted. The undertaking to recognize Americans who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing is central to the mission of the NSHOF, which was formed in 2005; they have completed phase one of its plan to establish a permanent facility on the historic waterfront of Annapolis, Maryland.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was first presented in 2014, the award is given to an American citizen, 55 years of age or older, who has had consistent involvement in sailing for a majority of his or her life and had success in the sport while also becoming successful and achieving noteworthy stature in a non-sailing career.

The six members of the 2015 Class of Inductees, along with the 42 heroes of the sport who have previously been inducted, exhibit the values and sportsmanship which sailing promotes. The primary mission of the NSHOF is to preserve and share the legacy of these passionate contributors to the sport. For more information about NSHOF, go to www.nshof.org.

The invitation-only 2015 Induction ceremony was sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. and Condé Nast. For more on the Inductees, please visit www.halloffamers.nshof.org.

U.S. Sailing has posted information on their 2016 Sailing Leadership Forum, scheduled for Feb. 4 to 6, 2016, at the Hilton San Diego Resort in California. Registration is open. The forum offers a unique experience for all types of sailors to connect on important and relevant issues on all aspects of our sport. Leaders from sail training and education, yacht club and sailing organization management, race officials and industry professionals will meet and learn from one another in the surroundings of this spectacular Southern California venue.

The forum has keynote speaker presentations and focused group sessions on a wide range of topics such as:

Growing the Sport, Developing Programs, Marketing & Communications, Administration & Management, Regattas & Racing and Rules & Officials. The Sailing Leadership Forum will feature lively and fun social events, hands-on activities, exhibitor displays and demonstrations, pre- and post-forum clinics and seminars for instructor certification, race management seminars, Safety at Sea seminars and more. Register today at www.sailingleadership.org.

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Andrea Watson is a Port Washington-based maritime photographer and journalist. She writes Port Washington News' column On The Bay and is currently the Executive Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS).

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