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Hall of Fame, 2017
Bentsen, William "Bill" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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William Bruce “Bill” Bentsen


February 18, 1930
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois


“Share your ideas with other competitors and they will usually do the same.”

Organizational Man

In the early 1960s, Bill Bentsen, who was in his early 30s, suggested to long-time friend and fellow scow sailor, Buddy Melges, that they consider trying for an Olympic berth for the 1964 Games in Japan. Buddy had won the Mallory Cup and been named the first US Yachtsman of the Year in 1961. Bentsen was a meticulous organizer who had earned a Ph.D. in economics a few years earlier. He saw something in Melges that was unique in sailing, a gifted natural sailor who could make any boat go fast. Bill suggested that they pair up for an Olympic effort in the Flying Dutchman class. At their first major international regatta after only a few practice races, Buddy remarked, “With all the boat tuning going on, boy, are we out of touch!” Bill answered, “Don’t be too sure about that.” They were close in speed to the top boats. They spent the next winter practicing and working on their boat and easily won the U.S. trials. One of their training techniques was to watch movies of their races. (There were no coaches in those days). At the Games they earned a bronze medal. Eight years later they set their sights on another Olympic effort in the new Soling Class. Bill Allen joined as the third member of their crew and they went on to win a gold medal in Germany in 1972.

From that point Bentsen turned his talents to improving sailing. Many of the Racing Rules of Sailing and race management procedures used today are a direct result of Bentsen’s work in the 1970s and 1980s. He has received World Sailing’s highest honor, the Beppe Croce Award, and US Sailing’s highest honor, the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Award. Throughout several decades of service, he used his sailing experience to provide a practical framework for the rules, appeals and race committee methods. During this period Bentsen wrote extensively about his ideas that have become a part of the fabric of the way sailing is managed today.

In addition to his Olympic medals, Bentsen was a champion in ice boats and a variety of scows. Early in his career he was a college professor before joining the US Yacht Racing Union as Director of One Design Sailing. His teaching ability was an asset as he worked to convince yachting authorities to adopt his proposed improvements to sailing’s regulations.

— Gary Jobson

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Hunt, Charles Raymond "Ray" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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Charles Raymond “Ray” Hunt

Ray-Hunt-2017HallofFamer-web-Photo-cMystic Seaport-Rosenfeld Collection
Photo © Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection

May 17, 1908 — August 30, 1978
Birthplace: Somerville, Massachusetts


“I ought to be able to design racing boats that wouldn’t be so darned expensive.”

A Genius at His Trade

A Genius at His Trade is the aptly named biography of C. Raymond Hunt’s long and productive career by author Stan Grayson. Ray Hunt was equally adept at designing both sail and powerboats. His designs get better with age. Some of the classes include the venerable 110, 210 and double-headed keelboats that could plane. He raced in the America’s Cup defender trials on the J/Boat Yankee and skippered the 12 Meter Easterner during the 1962 Cup summer. To describe Ray Hunt as versatile would be an understatement. One of the key ingredients for his success was the ability to use ideas from one marine discipline for another.

Hunt found that whether a boat is powered by an engine or a sail, the basic principles of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics apply. For example: after designing and racing the 110, which features a hard chine, Hunt observed, “Sailing on the V (of the hull) is the secret to the 110. I think it’s an idea that could be modified for powerboats.” The deep V hull helped inspire many powerboat designs including the Dick Bertram line. In 1949 Hunt designed a multihull for a client. About the same time, a Canadian inventor was developing a powerboat called a Sea Sled, which had a structural failure and was difficult to steer. Hunt worked on improving the concept for several years. In 1954 he became aware of a new Styrofoam and resin boatbuilding material. By 1964 he recognized the need for an inexpensive powerboat and introduced the Boston Whaler. One of his greatest sailboat designs was the Concordia series of classic yawls introduced in 1938. Most of the 103 of these beautiful 40’ yachts, are kept in Bristol condition today and are the pride at many yacht clubs around the East Coast.

As a sailor, he started his career on a promising note by winning the Sears Cup in 1923 and 1925. He won the 5.5 Meter World Championship and was aboard many of his designs in winning a long list of major regattas listed in Grayson’s book. During World War II, then Secretary of the Navy, Charles Francis Adams, who was one of America’s greatest sailors, recruited Hunt to design a fast ship for the U.S. Navy. His design was never built, but Hunt’s concept paid many dividends a few years later. Ray Hunt inspired his son, James “Sham” Hunt who also had a great sailing career highlighted by winning a gold medal in the Olympics as crew for George O’Day in the 5.5 Meter class. and he won the Mallory Cup.

— Gary Jobson

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Martin, William Carl "Bill" - 2017 Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award | Print |
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William Carl “Bill” Martin

Bill Martin-2017HallofFamer-web  

September 6, 1940
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan


“When you make a deal, leave something on the table for everybody.”

Go Blue!

If you want to know Bill Martin, play basketball with him at midnight. He will play with great intensity and yet have a smile the whole time. Bill is the consummate “work hard - play hard” sailor who has had a spectacular career as a competitor, but more importantly helped improve sailing at the highest levels. As a racer he has won the prestigious Chicago to Mackinac Race on his Santa Cruz 70 footer, Stripes, and has raced a wide variety of boats from small dinghies to large offshore yachts.

Bill saw the need to improve the governance of sailing. In 1981 there were three cases of cheating in offshore racing. Martin led the effort to expose the practice of illegal yacht measurement and improve the regulations of the sport. After serving on the Board of Directors of US Sailing, the governing body of the sport in the USA, he was elected President (1988-1991). He later became acting President of the United States Olympic Committee at a time that a major overhaul of the American Olympic program was needed. He was awarded the General Douglas MacArthur Award for his service, and he was presented with the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Award, US Sailing’s highest honor. Later he served as the Athletic Director of the University of Michigan for eight years.

In 1968 he founded the First Martin Corporation, a diversified real estate company. Martin has chaired a bank and served on behalf of the state of Michigan on the Detroit Financial Review Commission. He is also a long-time member of the Fales Committee, which oversees the sailing program at the United States Naval Academy. Bill Martin is always sought out by leaders in sailing for his wise council.

During the trials to represent the United States and the Bayview Yacht Club at the Canada’s Cup in 1984, Martin and his crew had long days racing on Lake St. Clair off Detroit. The racing was not enough. Martin and his young crew played some spirited basketball late into the night. His wife, Sally, two sons, and grandchildren still spend lots of time on the water. In 2004 Martin was overall winner of the Chicago to Mackinac Race and just one week later, won the IRC Offshore Championship. Each event awarded him a Rolex watch.

— Gary Jobson

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Mills, Clark Wilbur "Clarkie" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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Clark Wilbur “Clarkie” Mills


January 28, 1915 – December 11, 2001
Birthplace: Jackson, Michigan


“Just because the boats look stupid don’t mean nothing.”

Friend of the Youth

What do most Olympic sailors have in common? The answer is fascinating – they started their sailing careers racing the International Optimist Dinghy. This nifty and appropriately named box-shaped dinghy was the design vision of Clark Mills. He was asked by Major Clifford McKay to come up with a small boat for junior sailors immediately after the end of World War II. Mills came up with the Optimist Pram using standard eight-foot sheets of plywood for construction. The concept was a boat that would cost under $50 ($560 in 2017).

Mills designed or built several other small boats out of his shop in Dunedin, Florida which he described in his book, Clark Mills Boat Works including Snipes, Lightnings, Windmills the Sun Cat, and the Com-Pac Sloop. Several years ago he told Optimist News writer Bill Douglas, “Whenever people write about the Optimist, they give me all credit. Heck, I didn’t do anything but draw up the design. The folks that came up with the idea, they’re the ones who really got the ball rolling. Give them the credit.” Mills in his characteristic fashion underrated his contribution. He laughed later by saying, “I became famous for building a boat that looks like a horse trough.” Mills wanted a boat that could be built in a garage by a father and his son.

Today there are over 400,000 Optimists sailing in 120 countries around the world. At least 30 builders are producing boats for young people between the ages of eight and 15. Originally, the “Opti” was a boat for sailors in Florida, but in 1958 Axel Damgaard took one home with him to his native Denmark. The boat’s rig was modified and renamed the International Optimist Dinghy. Aspiring sailors and their parents could buy plans for the boat for $2.50. Mills never received any royalties for his design. After 70 years the basic Pram design is the same today as it was when first introduced in 1947. Late in his life, Clarkie, as he was called, told Bill Douglas, “I didn’t make out very well on the money end, but I certainly enjoyed myself. The boatbuilding business is just great. Just because the boats look stupid don’t mean nothing.”

Clark Wilbur Mills created an enduring legacy that has served young sailors well for many years – that will certainly continue long in to the future.bility was an asset as he worked to convince yachting authorities to adopt his proposed improvements to sailing’s regulations. 

— Gary Jobson

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Naish, Robert Staunton "Robby" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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Robert Staunton “Robby” Naish

Robby Naish-2017HallofFamer-web-Photo-CraigKolesky-RedBullContentPoolPhoto: Craig Kolesky/Red Bull Content Pool   

April 22, 1963
Birthplace: La Jolla, California


“I love the freedom of the sport, there are no rules.”

Wave Rider

Robby Naish literally rode the wave of a new sport and created a professional career that is second to none in the athletic world of windsurfing. In 1976 Robby’s father, Rick, was a surfer living in Hawaii who inspired his 13-year-old son to try windsurfing. At 13 years of age, young Robby won this first of 24 world titles. To understand how intense windsurfing in big waves can be, simply google Robby Naish, and you will be treated to many amazing videos on YouTube. His specialty is wave riding. Naish won the Overall World Championships between 1983 and 1987 and won another three championships on the Professional Windsurfing Association circuit in 1988, 1989 and 1991. Naish has been called “royalty” by his peers.

For 20 years Robby pioneered tremendous media interest in windsurfing. During this period he won 150 events. His aerial maneuvers were breathtaking. Many snow boarders created similar routines in the mountains. Every ocean wave and gust of wind is different. He was a master of creating something unique every time he was out on the water. After retiring from the professional tour, he established Naish Sails Hawaii/Nalu Kai, Inc. and began manufacturing high performance windsurfing and kiteboarding equipment. Distributors sell his products in over 60 countries.

Naish’s list of honors and awards is long. He has appeared in two windsurfing movies including the adrenaline-packed R.I.P. considered one of the best films about the genre of all time. When kiteboarding first came on the surf scene in the 1990s, Naish was one of the first to embrace the new discipline. And, as you might expect, won early titles in 1998 and 1999. In recent years Robby has been working on foils and stand up paddle boards. He reports, “foiling certainly opens up a whole new world of surfing. I am still learning, but having fun.” In late 2015 Naish broke his pelvis while landing after a big jump. It was his first serious injury. It took a year of therapy to recover. He credits his family for helping him get back out on the water. On his popular Facebook page, Robby observed, “The level of competition has gotten really high over the last few years. It sure feels great to still be out there mixing it up with the latest generation of windsurfing professionals.”

— Gary Jobson

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Shields, Cornelius "Corny" - 2017 Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award | Print |
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Cornelius “Corny” Shields


April 7, 1895 – October 15, 1981
Birthplace: Canada


“A great deal of my best instruction I learned from juniors and beginners.”

The Gray Fox of Long Island Sound

Very few sailors have been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, but Corny Shields was given that honor in the July 27, 1953 edition. Over his shoulder is an illustration of a fleet of International One Designs (IODs) racing on a reach leg with spinnakers up. Mr. Shields displays a slight smile of satisfaction. At the age of 58, he had achieved a lot in business and sailing. Professionally he had a knack for acquiring companies. He and his brother, Paul, founded an investment firm, Shields & Co., in 1923. Among his acquisitions was the boatbuilding giant Chris Craft. The company built affordable offshore yachts in the 36- to 42-foot range. During his ownership, he contracted legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens to come up with a 30-foot one-design keelboat. It was named the Shields. To build up the class, Shields donated fleets of these speedy boats to military academies. New York Maritime College and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy each had a fleet of eleven Shields. Many aspiring young sailors gained great experience racing these one-designs. The class endures to this day. In fact, about 30 still race off Newport, Rhode Island.

In 1936 Shield created the IODs. They attracted the best sailors of the era including America’s Cup helmsmen Bus Mosbacher, Bill Luders, Bob Bavier and Arthur Knapp Jr. In the winter months, Shields raced small Inter-Club dinghies on Long Island Sound. He crewed on Yankee in the America’s Cup trials in 1930 and was the starting helmsman on Columbia when she defended the Cup in 1958. Shields was recovering from a heart attack he had suffered a few years earlier and had to be careful of stress, but the racing actually relaxed him. He started out as an advisor watching Columbia from a powerboat. In his best-selling book, Racing with Cornelius Shields and the Masters, he talked about how much easier it was for him to give advice from onboard. Between 1909 and 1956, Shields estimated he had raced in 8,500 races.

Cornelius Shields provided a lasting legacy to sailing with his popular, affordable boats, willingness to help young sailors improve, as an example of how good sportsmanship on the water made him a hero, and as a champion in a wide variety of classes. His championships included the Atlantic Class, IODs, Frostbiting, 6 Meters, New York 30s, and first winner of the Mallory Cup (North American Men’s Sailing Championship) in 1952. As one of the thousands of junior sailors he helped, let me say, “Thank you.”

— Gary Jobson

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Smyth, Randolph Lyle "Randy" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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Randolph Lyle “Randy” Smyth


July 7, 1954
Birthplace: Pasadena, California


“Speed makes you look good.”

Speed King

How many Americans can say they have been on a winning America’s Cup crew and have won an Olympic medal in sailing? Randy Smyth is a member of that elite club. (For the record there are nine). Soon after Dennis Conner on Stars & Stripes defeated the Australians to take the America’s Cup to his home, San Diego Yacht Club in 1987, he received an unexpected challenge from New Zealand’s Cup challenge in 1988. Conner defended the Cup with a catamaran and got a huge assist from his wing trimmer, catamaran ace and Olympic silver medalist Randy Smyth. And, for good measure, Smyth won a second silver in 1992 in Barcelona.

His multihull prowess started at a young age. Along with his 9-year-old brother, David, Randy won his first catamaran race at the age of 11. The brothers raced an Aqua Cat 25 miles from Long Beach, California out to Catalina Island. Like most Southern Californian sailors, young Randy had a singlehanded Sabot, but the Aqua Cat was faster, and he says, “I could take friends along.” Later in 1968 he crewed for Rick Taylor in Germany in the first Tornado World Championship. In 1981 and again in 1982, Smyth and his crew Jay Glazer won back to back Worlds.

Smyth’s list of achievements includes both inshore racing and long-distance contests. In the 1980s a grueling 1000-mile multihull race was sailed between Daytona Beach, Florida and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Smyth won the contest in a record 75 hours. No one ever sailed the course faster. His resume includes 55 national, continental and world championship victories in a variety of multihulls. Today he is a highly regarded coach and advisor.

Randy Smyth has also had fun with the media. He consulted on two Hollywood films and sailed different catamarans for Kevin Costner in Water World, and Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair. In 2010 he commentated on the America’s Cup for ESPN, and in 2016 covered the Rio Olympic Games for NBC.

As an aside the other eight Americans with both Olympic medals and America’s Cup victories on the resume include: George O’Day, Eric Ridder, Dennis Conner, Conn Findlay, John Marshall, Carl Buchan, Buddy Melges, and John Kostecki.

— Gary Jobson

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The Class of 2017


Hall of Fame

Bill-Bentsen-2017HallofFamer-webBill Bentsen

Ray-Hunt-2017HallofFamer-web-Photo-cMystic Seaport-Rosenfeld Collection
Ray Hunt
Bill Martin-2017HallofFamer-webBill Martin

Clark-Mills-2017HallofFamer-webClark Mills

Robby Naish-2017HallofFamer-web-Photo-CraigKolesky-RedBullContentPoolRobby Naish

Corny-Shields-2017HallofFamer-web Corny Shields
  Randy-Smyth-2017HallofFamer-webRandy Smyth

Tom-Whidden-2017HallofFamer-webTom Whidden

* Lifetime Achievement Award  

The Class of 2017 will be inducted during a weekend of events, including the Induction Ceremony on September 24, 2017 at the New York Yacht Club's Harbour Court in Newport, Rhode Island.

Click here for the Announcement press release (PDF).

The National Sailing Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to: Preserving the history ofthe sport and its impact on American culture; honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing; the teaching of STEM education using sailing as a model, and the role sailing plays in American history; inspiring and encouraging sailing development; and providing an international landmark for sailing enthusiasts. 

Click here to read the bylaws and selection criteria used for this Class of 2017.

Whidden II, Thomas Avery "Tom" - 2017 Hall of Fame | Print |
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Thomas Avery “Tom” Whidden II


September 24, 1947
Birthplace: New York, New York


“My business is sailmaking, and my passion is sailing.”


Describing Tom’s career as “remarkable” is really an understatement. He has raced in eight America’s Cup campaigns (winning three), built North Sails into the largest sailmaking company in the world, has received countless awards, is constantly on the water serving as tactician on the most competitive yachts in the world, and is the past Commodore of the Essex Yacht Club.

Thomas A. Whidden grew up sailing out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in southern Connecticut. His father helped him buy a Blue Jay at the age of 10. Tom reflects on his early time on the water, “I loved the ability to go out and make decisions on your own. I loved the forces around you: the water, the air, the wind and the currents.”
During the summers, while attending Colby College, he worked at the Alcort Company promoting the sale of their boats, which included the Sunfish, “I ran their regatta programs and sort of slowly eased into a selling role. After graduating (1970), I went to work for Alcort. In 1972 he and partner Peter Conrad pinpointed Sobstad Sails as a good candidate to acquire and built Sobstad into a thriving business.

In 1979 Dennis Conner approached Whidden. “Hi I’m Dennis Conner. You are kicking my butt.” Whidden thanked him for the compliment and told Conner that he was heading to the airport to return home. Conner then said, “Good, I’ll go with you.” “He tells me his whole plan for the 1980 America’s Cup and invites me to be the tune-up boat skipper.” After a year Dennis Conner moved Tom over to the varsity crew as a trimmer. Conner and crew, aboard the latest Olin Stephens design, Freedom, easily defended the Cup in 1980. Three years later their fortunes changed when Alan Bond’s 12 Meter, Australia II, featuring a secret wing keel, looked to be a formidable threat. It was a very controversial summer. Australia II won 4-3 in the most exciting Cup in history. The defeat was devastating for Conner, and by extension Whidden and the rest of the crew. But Conner, Whidden and a new Stars & Stripes team went to Australia and beat the Aussies to bring the Cup back to the USA.

Conner, Whidden and the rest of the crew became national heroes. They were feted at the White House by President Reagan and even received a parade down Broadway in New York City, courtesy of Donald Trump. After the Cup victory in 1987, Whidden was hired to run North Sails, and he built the company into the largest sailmaker in the world.

— Gary Jobson

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