Class of 2020: Dave Perry

Published on August 31st, 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 Dave Perry (1954-), leading racer, coach, judge, and author, profiled in this tribute by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:


Dave Perry grew up racing a variety of small dinghies out of the Pequot Yacht Club (Southport, CT) on the north shore of Long Island Sound. In 1971 he won the Clinton M. Bell Trophy for having the best junior record on Long Island Sound. In 1973 he was accepted to attend Yale University and was captain of the team when they won the Intercollegiate Nationals in 1975. Dave was named an All American Sailor twice.

Fundamentally, Dave Perry has three attributes: he is a great sailor, is a passionate teacher, and one of the top authorities on the Racing Rules of Sailing. He has excelled in all three areas and has provided unparalleled inspiration to thousands of young sailors.

Between 1986 and 2006 he served as the Director of Athletics at Green Farms Academy, an independent day school in Westport, CT. In 1977 he worked with US Sailing conducting Advanced Racing Clinics and Sailing Instructor Seminars around the United States.

One morning Dave was giving a rules seminar to about 25 sailors. To emphasize key points each sailor held out a stick that was about eight feet long. Dave set up rules situations with the sailors holding the sticks to simulate the positions of the boats while racing. It was a clever method. Everyone was fully engaged and the sailors understood the rules after the session.

His list of sailing victories include winning the US Match Racing Championship five times, winning the Congressional Cup twice, and winning class championships in the Soling, Tasar, and Ideal 18s. Through all of his racing experiences and teaching clinics he became a highly sought after coach and rules advisor for Olympians and America’s Cup teams.

Perry on what it takes to win an Olympic medal: “It’s really the ultimate in our sport. The best sailors don’t know more than the others. When the pressure is on they’re executing well. Their boats are prepared and their boat handling is perfect. It’s not that the good sailors have any magic, but they are prepared and when the pressure is on they perform. My job as a coach is to make sure that we are prepared so that we are operating at 100% at the Olympics. They are all pretty good athletes so it’s the mental part that makes the difference.”

For the past forty plus years, Dave Perry has conducted well over 1,000 clinics and seminars on tactics and the rules. Every four years when the new rules are published he updates his book, “Understanding the Racing Rules of Sailing.” One of his true passions is serving as Chair the Appeals Committee in the USA. This is the body that decides on the interpretations of the rules.

For all his work, US Sailing awarded him the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff Trophy in 2020.

Dave uses humor and analogies during his clinics and tries to help sailors understand how to improve using examples from other sports, business or life in general. He has the ability to calm anxious sailors when he sees a problem.

One of his Yale teammates, Peter Isler, recalls a clinic where the sailors were nervous about capsizing because the wind was blowing hard. Dave got in front of the group and said, “I know you are nervous about capsizing so the first thing we are going to do is go out and capsize and like magic their fears went away.”

Sportsmanship is a hallmark of Dave Perry’s teachings. The sport of sailing is stronger as a direct result of his enthusiastic teaching skills.


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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