Spotlight on Sailing

by Jessica Ricks

The National Sailing Hall of Fame preserves America’s sailing legacy while engaging the next sailing generation. 

2017 National Sailing Hall of Fame Inductees from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Presenters Bob Johnstone and Mason Chrisman, Bill Martin, Robby Naish, Tom Whidden, Corny Shields, Fred Mills, Berny Mills, Sham Hunt, Randy Smyth and Timmy Larr. 

Sixty-five sailors have been inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame (NSHOF) since 2011. 

Established in 2005, the National Sailing Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization headquartered near Annapolis City Dock. Each year the organization accepts nominations from around the country to identify men and women who have made a substantial mark on the American sailing tradition. 

“We get 90 to 100 names every year,” says Executive Director Lee Tawney. “The selection committee includes representatives from the sailing media, the museum board, and various notable yacht clubs. They look at the nominees and choose.”

The organization aims to induct five to eight people each year. This year the induction ceremony was hosted by the New York Yacht Club in Newport, Rhode Island. 

“The idea is to call attention to heroes and role models for young people,” Tawney says. “We want to engage the next generation.”

The list of Hall of Famers includes Olympic gold medalist and America’s Cup skipper Buddy Melges, legendary boat designer Nathanael Herreshoff, Annapolis-based author Stuart Walker, ESPN sailing analyst, author and America’s Cup tactician Gary Jobson, five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the year Betsey Alison, and, of course, Ted Turner.

According to its mission statement, the Hall of Fame strives to “promote sailing by preserving America’s sailing legacy and to engage the next generation by sharing the benefits, excitement and beauty of sailing.” 

To accomplish this, the induction is just one of the Hall of Fame’s four main programs. Each summer and spring, the NSHOF’s STEM Sailing Program gives 9th and 10th graders the opportunity to learn about navigation, history, mathematics and the science of sailing. The Tom Morris Sailing Library contains over 3,000 books available to researchers. And visitors can take part in sailing classes and group sails on Bull and Bear, replicas of 19th-century Sandbagger boats. 

“Sailing is good for the soul,” says Tom Gahs, a Hall of Fame volunteer who takes groups of up to 10 people sailing on Bull and Bear. “It’s a sport where you can have all levels of intensity and still have fun.”

The NSHOF website provides online tours and educational tools. The NSHOF Film Library includes short videos such as American Sailing History and Ghosts of Cape Horn—rare footage of a schooner’s tumultuous trip round the Cape. Art exhibits include sailing covers from The New Yorker and selections from the National Gallery of Art. There is also photography, literature and sailing music. 

“It’s our mission to explore the beauty and fun of sailing,” Gahs says. “Our mission statement says exactly what it means, and it is the sense I get when taking groups out sailing.”

The NSHOF hosts various events throughout the year, including the Recovering Warrior Sailing Squadron Regattas, which allows disabled veterans to compete in specially equipped sailboats. 

“With seven years of programming, we feel strongly about working with schools and the community,” says Tawney. “It creates a place to sail and learn about the history and legacy of the sport of sailing.”

The National Sailing Hall of Fame has plenty of activities for community involvement. Learn about them at or by calling 410-295-3022.

—Jessica Ricks