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On The Bay: November 1, 2011

Last weekend in San Diego, the National Sailing Center & Hall of Fame (NSHOF) celebrated the induction of 15 sailors into the National Sailing Hall of Fame during ceremonies that were dedicated to the memory of Walter Cronkite (1916-2009). The familiar broadcast journalist was an avid sailor and served as Honorary Chair on the NSHOF Board of Advisors for close to three years.

Recognizing both Cronkite’s contributions to American sailing and this historic occasion, the NSHOF website is currently featuring the mobile-compatible, two-part series America’s Cup: Cronkite Reports, which chronicles, race by race, the 1987 America’s Cup campaign, a watershed event in American sailing. A two-minute clip can be seen on the NSHOF home page (www.nshof.org), click on Film Library.

American actor Morgan Freeman, also an avid sailor, was recently named Chair of the Honorary Advisory Board, filling the position left vacant by Cronkite. “I am honored to be part of the National Sailing Center & Hall of Fame as we create a home for American sailing,” said Freeman, emphasizing that he knew how important the endeavor was to Cronkite. “My love for sailing started at an early age, and there is nothing like being carried away by the wind and waves.”

Freeman’s passion for sailing started with his first sail aboard a Lightning on a reservoir near Stowe, Vermont, in 1967. He soon moved up to larger boats and ocean sailing. “If you live a life of make-believe, your life isn’t worth anything until you do something that does challenge your reality,” he said. “And to me, sailing the open ocean is a real challenge, because it’s life or death. There’s no quarter.”

The Hall of Fame Inaugural Induction included the following: US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach and five-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Betsy Alison (Newport, R.I.); surfboard industry pioneer Hobie Alter (Laguna Beach, California); 1998 Whitbread Round the World Race winning skipper Paul Cayard (Kentfield, California); four-time America’s Cup winning skipper Dennis Conner (San Diego, Calif.); naval architect and America’s Cup winning skipper Ted Hood (Portsmouth, R.I.); sailor, author and Emmy-award winning sailing commentator Gary Jobson (Annapolis, Md.); 1972 Soling Olympic Gold Medalist Buddy Melges (Zenda, Wisc.); 1968 Star Olympic Gold Medalist and founder of North Sails Lowell North (San Diego, Calif.); and America’s Cup winning helmsman and four-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Ted Turner (Atlanta, Ga.). The NSHOF Posthumous Inductees were: Transatlantic Race record setter Capt. Charles “Charlie” Barr (Marblehead, Mass.); naval architect Capt. Nathanael G. Herreshoff (Bristol, R.I.); two-time America’s Cup winning skipper Emil “Bus” Mosbacher, Jr. (Greenwich, Conn.); the first-ever singlehanded circumnavigator and noted writer Joshua Slocum (San Francisco, Calif.); yacht designer Olin Stephens (Hanover, N.H.); and three-time America’s Cup winning skipper Harold S. Vanderbilt (New York, N.Y.).

The next group of NSHOF inductees will be announced in July 2012, and through 2013 the number of inductees will not exceed 15. Beginning in 2014, the Selection Committee will induct a maximum of five sailors each year. For more on the individual accomplishments of the 2011 Inductees, please visit: 2011halloffamers.nshof.org.

Craig Leweck, the editor of Scuttlebutt, the online daily sailing newspaper, was able to attend the induction ceremony and described it as “one of those once in a lifetime moments. It was a treat to attend a special dinner for the inductees, where all the people I looked up to as a youth, whose exploits were among the magazine clippings I had saved, were around me.” It is not every day that you can be seated between Buddy Melges and Ted Turner at dinner. And this privilege was not wasted on Leweck. He wrote all about it and those interested can get the full version at www.scuttlebutt.com, click on archived newsletters and choose the Wednesday, Oct. 26 (#3456) edition.

Some comments from inductees that readers may recognize: Dennis Conner, of America’s Cup fame, said, “It is very special to me for the event to be held in San Diego Yacht Club. I really feel that without this venue, this club, I don’t know what I would be doing, but I know I wouldn’t be standing here and going into the Hall of Fame. I grew up a half block away, my father was a fisherman, and he would drop his fish off nearby. I think we are all a creature of our environment, so it was normal for me to come down to the yacht club and hang out and learn to sail. Fortunately for me, I can look around and see so many of the people responsible for what success I’ve had.”

Betsy Alison, who has been voted Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year a record five times, and is now the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics Paralympic Coach, provided these comments: “As a young girl on Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, I never ever dreamed of being a hall of famer. I never would have expected the passion that I have for this sport would have taken me to the heights that I have achieved or the places I have gone. When my two brothers and I were little kids, my dad and mom joined a little local yacht club. My dad then said to the three of us, ‘You guys will learn to sail because sailing is a sport that you can do for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter if you are 9 or 90 and whether you choose to race is your own choice. It’s your decision but we will support you whatever you choose to do’. And I really think that to be successful in this sport, you have to be determined, you have to have a passion, and you have to dedicate yourself to making things happen. You have a dream, and you have to reach for the opportunity when it is presented to you, and I feel really fortunate to have had the ability to do both.”

The National Sailing Center & Hall of Fame is a not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to: preserving the history of the sport and its impact on American culture; honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing; the teaching of math, science and American history; inspiring and encouraging sailing development; and to providing an international landmark for sailing enthusiasts. The NSHOF has partnered with US SAILING and the U.S. Naval Academy, and is associated with the Herreshoff Marine Museum, Sailing World, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Water Trail, the Congressional Cup, Hudson River Community Sailing, Young Mariners Foundation and yacht clubs throughout the country in its efforts to recognize role models of outstanding achievement. For more information on the NSHOF, please visit: www.nshof.org.