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Class of 2020: Robbie Haines Jr.

Published on August 24th, 2020

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected nine people in 2020 to join the 81 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among the Class of 2020 to be inducted on September 12 is Robbie Haines Jr. (1954-), Olympic gold-medalist and world champion, profiled in this tribute by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

Robbie Haines started sailing in a Sabot that his father built while serving as Captain on a Scripps research vessel. The little Sabot was built on the deck and was first sailed in the Suez Canal, and when the vessel and the Sabot returned to San Diego, eight-year-old Robbie took the boat sailing for the first time. From that point on he has had a remarkable career in Olympic sailing and offshore racing.

Haines is quick to point out that he was lucky to have Lowell North as an early mentor. In 1976, North crewed for Haines along with Rod Eales in the U.S. Olympic Trials in the Soling Class. The team ended up second and Haines was named as an alternate to the team for the Games held off Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The experience of being part of the Olympics was an asset and he won the U.S. Trials in 1980.

Unfortunately for Haines, President Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the Games that were to be in held in Tallinn, Estonia. For Haines and his crew Rod Davis and Ed Trevelyan, the goal of reaching the Olympics was still their goal.

As both Davis and Trevelyan were racing in the America’s Cup in 1983, Haines teamed up with Vince Brun and Robert Kinney and won the Soling World Championship. Haines was becoming more formidable each year, and with Davis and Trevelyan back on board, they won another tough selection trial off Long Beach, California.

The USA team were well prepared for the 1984 Olympics thanks to the competition against Dave Perry, Dave Curtis, and Ed Baird (All National Sailing Hall of Fame Inductees). This was needed as the line-up for the ’84 Games had Torben Grael from Brazil, Hans Fogh from Canada, and Jesper Bank from Denmark who were all tough contenders, with each going on to win Olympic Medals in future Olympics.

The seven-race series allowed for one throw-out race. The Americans opened with a first but slipped back to 9th in Race Two against the 22 countries that qualified that year. Over the next four races, the USA scored a 3-5-1-2 series and won the Gold Medal without having to sail the final race.(Grael got the Silver and Fogh the Bronze).

With a Gold Medal on his shelf, many opportunities came Haines’ way. He was hired as the Executive Director of US Sailing for a few years and then returned to the racecourse. He won seven world championships in five classes (One Ton, Half Ton, Corel 45, Etchells, and Soling), raced in five Admiral’s Cups, competed in the Farr 40 Class and crewed in 18 Transpac Races. While working at North Sails, the late Roy E. Disney recruited Haines as project manager and sailing master of his offshore racer, “Pyewacket.”

Over the years Robbie has served on many boards and committees including the California International Sailing Association, U.S. Olympic Yachting Committee, Long Beach Sailing Center, Transpacific Yacht Club, and Stanford University Sailing Team. He is credited with being an Associate Producer and sailing manager of the Disney feature film, “Morning Light.” He thanks his wife Amy for keeping him focused.

Haines has proven himself to be an outstanding leader, sportsman, and an inspiration to young sailors who have dreams of reaching the highest levels of sailing.

Due to COVID-19, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame’s induction process will recognize the Class of 2020 in a virtual celebration on September 12 at 6:00pm EDT. To register for the online event, click here.

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