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2020 US Sailing Award Winners

Published on March 10th, 2021

Bristol, RI (March 10, 2021) – The annual US Sailing Association and Community Sailing Award winners were celebrated today in a special edition of US Sailing’s Starboard Portal. Individuals and organizations were honored for their contributions to the sport of sailing in the United States in the areas of Community Service, Training and Education, Olympic Coaching and Volunteerism.

2020 US Sailing Award Winners:
• Karen Harris (Chicago, IL) received the Outstanding Organizational Leader Award.
• PYC Satori Foundation (Pensacola, FL) received the Jim Kilroy Award for Outstanding Outreach & Inclusion.
• Elli Ansari (Wayzata, MN) received the Volunteer of the Year Award.
• Jeff Johnson (San Diego, CA) received the Timothea Larr Trophy.
• Donna Sue Marks (Clearwater, FL) received the Virginia Long Sail Training and Service Award.
• Bradley Schoch (Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA) received the Dick Allsopp C.R.E.W. Award.
• Giulia Conti (Rome, Italy) received the National Coach of the Year Award.
• Philip Muller (Fort Pierce, FL) received the Developmental Coach of the Year Award.

Here is a description of the recipients by US Sailing:

Jim Kilroy Award for Outstanding Outreach & Inclusion – PYC Satori Foundation (Pensacola, FL)
The PYC Satori Foundation’s mission is to inspire interest in and encourage and promote the sport of sailing and yachting and a broad range of maritime activities in Pensacola, Florida. They do this by providing outreach sails including STEM education; seasonal scholarships for underserved youth; and year-round scholarships to camp recipients that show skills, motivation, and a commitment to making sailing accessible.

The Satori Foundation is notable in their community for going above and beyond to establish partnerships with local organizations for their outreach sails. Some of their youth partners include the Boys and Girls’ Club, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Seastars Aquatics, a program for swimmers with disabilities, and FSU CARD, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

They engage each group in a STEM lesson prior to sailing and get every participant hands-on learning during their sail. Participants learn in an exciting environment, understanding the science of waves, wind and currents, and the technology of instruments and modern navigation. They learn they can steer a large sailboat and in turn steer their own path through life.

Each of Sartori’s adult groups deals with an extraordinary level of stress in their lives, but their time out on the water gives them an experience of peace and well-being. Sailing is Sartori’s way of offering a place of peace to de-stress and recharge.

Volunteer of the Year – Elli Ansari, Wayzata Sailing (Wayzata, MN)
A superior volunteer is someone who devotes a huge portion of their time and energy to their organization, has a wide knowledge of people and programs, and a personality that drives people to participate.

Elli Ansari has been volunteering at Wayzata Sailing in Minnesota for over a decade. Her daughter sailed recreationally in the program, and Elli has been volunteering ever since. She has been a driving force in helping Wayzata meet their objectives.

Her efforts have made a permanent mark on their entire team.

In 2020, when many struggled to figure out how to have a meaningful impact, Elli brought positive energy to the community. She helped navigate new versions of old fundraisers, maintained strong relationships with past donors, and connected Wayzata with new opportunities. She was one of the leaders who made their two-million-dollar capital campaign happen so the Mike Plant Community Boathouse could be built. And she did all of this with an attitude of optimism and joy.

Elli gives every person her full trust and can run with any problem. She adapts readily, takes instruction, and has an amazing ability to rope in everyone necessary to complete a task if she cannot do it herself.

Outstanding Organizational Leader – Karen Harris, Jackson Park Yacht Club Foundation (Chicago, IL)
The Jackson Park Yacht Club Foundation is based on the south-side of Chicago. Their mission is to provide the outreach, education, training, support, and resources necessary to engage young people and adults in activities on and around the water.

Jackson Park’s Junior Sailing Program is one of the most diverse and inclusive programs in the country, serving students from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds through a combined fee-based and scholarship summer camp. They use sailing to develop life skills such as conflict resolution, teamwork, and communication.

Their program also serves as a gateway into academic learning outside of the traditional classroom setting. Examples of their unique program components include: STEM experiments and art and poetry workshops with maritime themes.

Karen’s first sailing encounter was at a summer camp in 1970, at a time when sailing was even more of a predominantly white and affluent sport than it is today. She and her brother Joey were the only African American children in the camp.

This early experience shaped her passion for diversifying the sport. She has since worked to give access to People of Color and people from low-income backgrounds in the form of scholarships and outreach.

In 2016, as Commodore of JPYC, Karen re-launched the Junior Sailing Program that had been defunct for over 20 years. Beginning with the purchase of 12 Bugs from the Chicago Yacht Club in 2017, the program was entirely fee-for-service. By the Spring of 2018, Karen secured funding to purchase seven used 420s and launch the Open Horizons Scholarship Program.

The JPYC Foundation awarded 64 scholarships in 2018, 65 in 2019, and over 100 in 2020. On top of the countless hours she works for the JPYC Foundation, Karen is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), a trade association representing over 200 hospitals and 50 health systems.

In what little spare time she has, Karen is an avid sailor in her own right, racing to Mackinac Island every summer as First Mate onboard “Mise en Place” one of the few sailboats in Chicago with a majority African American crew.

Timothea Larr Trophy – Jeff Johnson (San Diego, CA)
Many people have worked with Jeff in his capacity as Chair of the Race Officer Training and Certification Committee, but Jeff’s impact on US Sailing extends much further than Race Administration. He became a Level 1 Instructor Trainer in 1992, a Powerboat Instructor in 1997, and a Level 2 Coach trainer in 1999. In 2004, he became a certified Basic and Advanced Race Management Instructor.

He served as a member of National Faculty for many years and helped provide feedback that shaped the development of those programs. What makes Jeff unique is that he sees things from a variety of perspectives and has been able to apply his vast experience to help build connections between the different educational programs within US Sailing.

A professional in the truest sense, he explicitly understands the big picture of education. He has great ideas but is never closed-minded and he doesn’t let “the way we’ve done things before” stand in the way of improvements. He’s a pleasure to work with, an honor to know, and an example to follow for all.

Jeff’s countless volunteer hours over the past year specifically allowed US Sailing to continue delivering Race Officer training throughout the pandemic. This commitment fed the base of racing allowing races to continue to be held in an unprecedented time.

For most sailboat racing was one of the very few activities people could engage in in the summer of 2020 while social distancing. He has worked diligently to standardize the Race Officer training and education process, products, and pathways. As one nominator stated, “His dedication is inspiring and contagious.”

Virginia Long Sail Training and Service Award – Donna Sue Marks (Clearwater, FL)
As a member of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Donna Sue continually offers her skills as a Professional Race Officer, working closely with both youth and adult events. Donna Sue has also championed the “kites”, helping to increase racing venues and opportunities throughout the region for this breathtaking sport.

As Commodore of the Florida Sailing Association (FSA), Donna Sue started her tenure by traveling to as many sailing centers, clubs and events as possible to hear from the stakeholders throughout the state – how can FSA be more supportive and relevant to its members?

While FSA Commodore, Donna Sue worked tirelessly to support youth racing by offering youth regatta reimbursement grants to families of member organizations. She later agreed to include organizational training grant reimbursements to help close the gap in training needs throughout the state.

She also made it a point of traveling to as many clubs and organizations as possible in her first two years as Commodore, promoting sailing/racing and helping build knowledge for Professional Race Officers. She has shared training information with not only her home club, SPYC, but also with the region and beyond.

As many Regional Sailing Associations struggle to find their place in the sun, she has maintained and sustained FSA’s membership through stable numbers, adding new clubs along the way.

Donna Sue was especially supportive when FSA chose to offer an organizational training reimbursement to encourage clubs to have their eligible and strong candidates trained for various programs and certifications. She has also been a promoter of a regional junior women’s clinic that would bring young female sailors together for not only strategy and tactics but also for leadership.

Her energy appears limitless – Kiting has been a significant piece of the work she has focused on to bring this form of “sailing” into a recognized and rightful place. Her character is marked by integrity, fairness, safety for all, and encouraging others to succeed.

Dick Allsopp C.R.E.W. Award – Bradley Schoch, US Sailing
Bradley Schoch embodied the essence of the C.R.E.W. award in 2020 at US Sailing. Over the past year Brad has led US Sailing fearlessly into online education to maintain revenue streams in training and education during a global pandemic.

In March, he poured over potential online platforms, Learning Management Systems, and vetted them based on price, functionality, and usability. He then pushed his recommendation forward. That is when the true work began. He worked to problem solve, research, and build US Sailings online courses.

When working with staff or volunteers, he works tirelessly to listen carefully and ponder everyone’s thoughts and ideas and then will circle back days or weeks later with a solution that keeps everyone’s priorities in mind.

He works to achieve excellence in every product or file he touches, always pushing those around them to aim higher and build products of the highest quality. His leadership and dedication has impacted every educational product at US Sailing.

US Sailing would not have made the strides in online education and video production in 2020 without him.

National Coach of the Year Award – Giulia Conti (Rome, Italy)
As a sailor, Giulia Conti’s credentials are impressive as a four-time Olympian. But today, she has transformed from an athlete to a highly motivated and focus-driven coach, working with Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea of the US Sailing Team. She works closely with this team on developing a strategy, scheduling, and methodology to become the fastest rising talents in the 49erFX class racing at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

As with many coaches, Giulia’s drive and motivation comes from her years of competing, embracing her winning lessons, and also recognizing areas that she could improve on. Of particular interest to Giulia is the dynamic relationship and service a coach provides to their athletes, and she strives to gain the knowledge and skills from her coaching peers.

She is well on her way, and to see Giulia combine the tempered world of reflection and calculation with the “rapido” and “do it!” attitude and demeanor, makes you smile and appreciate her unique personality.

Giulia’s athletes, Steph and Maggie, are a pair of athletes that will leave no stone unturned. Their determination is calculated and fierce. As this trio joined forces in 2018, a new stage was set for a ramp-up of skills, a constant level of evaluation and evolving goals, and a deep three-person relationship development.

Giulia has learned the all-important skill of out-sourcing specialized coaching to cover areas where the team needs progress, while being a solid foundation for tracking and strategizing the next steps. Giulia can seem quiet with an air of individuality, yet she is constructing a wide environment consisting of mental strategies, boat handling, boat speed, specific equipment testing, sail trim and tuning, condition specific training, physical fitness, weather, and refinement of strategy and tactics.

While that list isn’t unusual for a top Olympic program, the level of scrutiny, the reporting and tracking, and the incremental improvements over the last three years are undeniably impressive. Giulia’s systems are now becoming the standard for our the US Sailing Team.

Of course the final chapter of Giulia’s coaching job has yet to be played out in Tokyo, but the work and progress is on track. In addition to supporting Steph and Maggie, Giulia is an integral part of the U.S. Olympic Team coaching staff, and contributes team-wide to our building effort for the Games. It is eager, collaborative, and motivated coaches like Giulia that are building the future of coaching in America.

In professional sports, results are indeed the measure of success, and Roble/Shea’s progress under Giulia’s guidance has been strong.

Developmental Coach of the Year Award – Philip Muller (Fort Pierce, FL)
It is easy to recognize Phil’s recent career. His focus and determination is undeniable. He is the ultimate student of sport who learns everyday more than he teaches.

Phil is a coach who is clear and concise on the goals of the program with his athletes – there is no question about the culture he is driving. He is determined to be the best he can be, and pushes his athletes to do the same.

His ability to adapt to personalities and mood are impressive. The number and skill level of athletes that he serves is extreme, yet he problem solves individually with each athlete through personal focus and connection.

Phil’s centerpiece of work over the last several years has been on creating and running the highly successful 2NINER team, which focuses on 29er coaching, ranging from graduating Opti sailors to World Championship medalists. This Miami based group has been a nucleus of opportunity for sailing talent, and has been the pathway for many top young athletes transitioning into our ODP classes.

Phil coached athletes to one gold and two silver medals at the World Championships, and played an integral part of the U.S. Youth Worlds Team winning the Nation’s Trophy in 2018 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Phil has also demonstrated a wide range of coaching including the Nacra 17, 49er, 49erFX, as well as the new IQFoil board and Foiling Kite classes.

Phil’s love and passion for our sport, dedication to learning, and excellence in human connection, are the cornerstones of why he won this award.

To learn more about the US Sailing Awards, click here.

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