Annapolis sailor Allan Terhune recently returned from Algarrobo, Chile, bringing home with him a gold trophy from the 2023 Pan American Games. Often considered a warmup event for the Olympics, the Pan Am Games brought together some of the best sailors from North and South America to compete over six days. Terhune and his crew won five out of the ten races.
A native of New Jersey, Terhune is a Merchant Marine Academy graduate who has made Annapolis his home since the early 2000s, when he was hired to coach at the Naval Academy. Moving into a career as a professional sailor with North Sails, Terhune began racking up titles in the Lightning, 420, Flying Scot, and J/22 fleets. Four times in the past, he missed qualifying for the Pan Am Games. The 2023 Games were his fifth attempt, and he wasn’t going to go home empty-handed.
“There were some really good sailing teams,” says Terhune, from his home in Annapolis. “South America is home to some of the best sailors in the world. If you look at the top countries in Olympic sailing, you see these countries represented.”
Terhune’s crew for the event included professional sailors Sarah Chin and Madeline Baldridge. The stipulations for the regatta necessitated crews of three, two women and one man. “I think this was a great test case (for mixed-crew sailing), because everyone was on equal footing.”
Terhune knew Chin from junior sailing in New Jersey, and brought on Baldridge after working with her at North Sails. Chin is an Olympic sailor, competing in the 2008 Beijing Games with Amanda Clark, while Baldridge is a highly regarded sail designer and big boat competitor on the Chesapeake.
“We’re three different people with different personalities, different viewpoints, and different strengths,” says Terhune. “Sarah’s great with weather and boat management, while Madeline is phenomenal with all technical aspects of the boat. It proved to be a very good formula.”
The boat chosen for the regatta was the Lightning, a 19-foot racer that was developed in northern New York in the 1930s. A favorite of the Pan Am games and sailed all over the world, the class is highly competitive, albeit old.
“The Lightning’s a technical boat,” says Terhune. “It’s an easy boat to sail, a hard boat to sail well.” The boat is frequently raced with a crew of just two; the Pan Am requirement for a crew of three opened doors for boat management by adding an extra set of hands. But this didn’t necessarily make things easier.
“It takes a team to sail the Lightning well,” he says. “You can see the difference between the teams where one isn’t pulling their weight. There’s nowhere to hide.”
For now, Terhune is happy staying at home and completing the honey-do lists that have accumulated while he was in South America. “This was a big mountain to get over,” he says.