The National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) held its fifth Induction Weekend on Oct. 4, 2015, and recognized members of the 2015 Class of Inductees. The six, who have made significant contributions to the sport of sailing, were honored during ceremonies held at the Bay Head Yacht Club in New Jersey. They include sailing school founder Steve Colgate, Fort Myers, Fla.; Olympic medalist Paul Foerster, Rockwall, Texas; Olympic medalist and author JJ Fetter, San Diego, Calif.; boatbuilding innovators and brothers Meade and Jan Gougeon, both Bay City, Mich.; and U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee Director Samuel V. Merrick, Medford, N.J., who was also the recipient of the NSHOF’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.
In their remarks, the inductees noted that they could not have achieved their success without significant support from others in the sport and industry. Olympic medalist and author JJ Fetter of San Diego said that after the birth of her daughters, “my mom raised both girls while I did an Olympic campaign in 2000. In fact, after the Olympics when I went to preschool a lot of the parents thought I was the nanny, and it took a few years before I could clear that up.” Fetter also cited the community at San Diego Yacht Club, which was “a hotbed of sailing” when she was a kid. “I learned so much from watching sailors like Lowell North, Carl Eichenlaub [both NSHOF inductees] and Vince Brun.”
Olympic medalist Paul Foerster of Rockwall, Texas, recounted how he learned from more experienced sailors, as his family had no experience in the sport when they relocated from Colorado to Texas and bought a boat. Foerster said, “I’m not the best sailor in the world, but I can find somebody better to sail with so I can learn and get better. And they will make me, and us, a better team.”
Boatbuilder Meade Gougeon acknowledged that he and his late brother, Jan Gougeon, had accomplished something that neither would have achieved alone. Together they formulated an epoxy system — the West System and Pro-Set epoxies — ideally suited to the needs of amateur boatbuilders, which revolutionized boat construction and repair.
Steve Colgate, an accomplished racing sailor, has introduced 130,000 people to the sport. He and his wife Doris started the Offshore Sailing School in 1964. Together with naval architect Jim Taylor, Colgate’s created the award-winning design concept, the Colgate 26.
The Lifetime Achievement Award honoree was the late racing sailor Samuel V. Merrick of Medford, N.J. Merrick was most active in E-Scow, Soling and Thistle classes.
As an U.S. Olympic sailing coach Merrick helped lead the U.S. team to seven medals in seven events (three gold and four silver) — the best record of any U.S. team competing at the 1984 Olympic games. His son, Gregory Merrick, accepted the posthumous award.
Meanwhile seven sailors were recently inducted into the International Sailing Federation Hall of Fame. These were sailors who have made significant impact not only on the water but also ashore to help shape the sport.
The 2015 inductees include: America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner, Olympic sailor Alessandra Sensini, Cup defender Harold Vanderbilt (1884-1970), New Zealand racer and explorer Sir Peter Blake (1948-2001), Olympian Buddy Melges, Ukrainian Gold Medalist Valentin Mankin (1938-2014), and Brazilian Olympian and Volvo Ocean Race skipper Torben Grael. The next induction will be in 2019.