Living Legends: 10 Questions for US Sailing President* Gary Jobson
Published on February 25th, 2014
by Brittany Meyers, Windtraveler
(February 25, 2014) – There are few things more impressive to me than humility. In the rockstar world of top-level sailboat racing, it’s easy to get caught up in the dangerous habit of self importance. So when Scott and I were strolling around Strictly Sail and one of our friends (who also happens to be a professional racer and sailmaker) called us over to his booth and introduced us to the man pictured above, it was easy to mistake him for your run of the mill sailing enthusiast. A nice guy who was just enjoying talking to friends at a sailboat show.
But he is so much more.
Most cruising sailors probably don’t know who this is – but anyone who loves the sport of sailboat racing does. This is Gary Jobson, the president* of US Sailing, the voice of sailboat racing for ESPN, editor at large for both Cruising World and Sailing World Magazines, accomplished author, public speaker and, quite possibly, the biggest advocate for sailing out there today. He was Ted Turners tactician for the victorious 1977 America’s cup, has raced the Fastnet, and taken all sorts of titles in various sailboat races around the world. He has been inducted into the America’s Cup hall of fame and even has a couple Emmy’s on his mantel for his work in television production. As if that is not enough, he also happens to be a cancer survivor and the creator of the Leukemia Cup. The man is unstoppable.
So, yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. But meeting him you would NEVER know it which makes him even more awesome in my book. He’s your every day, super exceptional, guy next door.
We got to chat with him casually for a while at the show and, despite being tremendously busy with speaking engagements and writing his umpteenth book, he graciously agreed to a short online interview for our site. Here it is:
1) Your illustrious sailing career spans generations and you are, quite possibly, the most decorated and celebrated American sailor of this day and age. How did you get bitten by the sailing bug? Did you always have big sailing dreams and aspirations from a young age?
I first started sailing at the age of 6 in Toms River, NJ. For me it was just a summer activity until I turned 12. That was the defining time. I started sailing 12 months a year. I kept track of all my races. When I was 17, I became a sailing instructor. I’ve been promoting sailing ever since.
2) What is your greatest “take away” from sailing as a lifestyle and sport?
The great thing about sailing is you get to do it your entire life. The great rewards are all the places you visit and the people you get to know. Thanks to racing with highly accomplished people like Ted Turner, Walter Cronkite, Herbert Von Karajan and Sam Merrick, I’ve learned many life lessons that have been beneficial in my sailing career, business career and my family life.
3) You have had a tremendous amount of success in this sport and many opportunities have come your way; from racing with Ted Turner on Courageous for the 1977 America’s Cup to winning an Emmy for your coverage of the 1988 Olympics… from becoming the “voice” of sailing with ESPN to getting inducted into the sailing hall of fame…the list goes on. Were you always ambitious about pursing these things (i.e. it has been said you have an entrepreneurial spirit), or did you sort of fall into one thing after another?
Today, looking back on my long career, I have to smile because one opportunity seemed to lead to the next opportunity but I did set goals and worked to achieve them.
4) Speaking of accomplishments – you are also a cancer survivor. What was the overwhelming driving force that lead you to fight and, once again, emerge victorious in the most significant “battle” in your life? Has surviving cancer changed your outlook on sailing and racing at all?
10 years have gone by since my cancer disappeared. It’s hard to believe I actually went through two years of treatment. At the time, I felt I had far more things to accomplish in life and did not want to give up. There are many ups and downs when you go through aggressive treatments but the most important message I can give to people is to keep fighting.
5) Of all the things you have done and accomplished – and the list is LONG – what are you most proud of?
My wife of 40 years, Janice, and I have three grown daughters all with Master degrees, each with a husband and two with their own children. Very cool!
6) To become as famous and successful as you have in this industry is not easy, was there a single moment in your career when you had to “pinch” yourself and thought “I have arrived!”?
I think an important moment was being with Ted Turner on Courageous winning the America’s Cup. I realized that I would have many opportunities to pursue.
7) You are both a racing sailor and a cruising sailor – two VERY different things. Which do you prefer? Or does each fill it’s own niche in your life?
Fundamentally I’m a racing sailing and I enjoyed racing at all levels. I didn’t start cruising until I was in my 40s. The interesting thing about cruising is that I still enjoy lots of hours sailing on the way to new destinations.
8) If you didn’t have a career in sailing, what would you be doing?
Interesting question. I’m sure I would have been involved in some form of sports. I enjoy producing television programs and films because you start from scratch and try to make a topic interesting to viewers. Having said that, I really enjoy speaking to groups to try and get people interested in sailing. It’s very rewarding.
9) You have touched SO many lives and inspired SO many people, sailors and landlubbers alike. What inspires you?
Many people are passionate about sailing. Really it is the icing on the cake of life. I hope I have helped people to understand and appreciate the sport. I find it immensely gratifying when people say thank you. It inspires me to continue.
10) You are the father of three girls, two of whom are a set of twins – what one piece of advice can you give to Scott about becoming completely and hopelessly outnumbered by women?
The funny thing is we now have three son-in-laws and two grandsons so the ratio has gone from 4 to 1 to 6 to 4 in favor of the males.
Thank you Gary for your time, contributions to our sport and for your inspiration and kindness!! The world needs more folks like you!
* Correction: Gary is the past president of US Sailing, preceding the current president Tom Hubbell.