Class of 2021: Jane Pegel

Published on October 6th, 2021

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected eleven sailors in 2021 to join the 90 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among the 11th class to be formally inducted on October 16 is Jane Pegel (1933-), a three-time Martini & Rossi (now Rolex) Yachtswoman of the Year and winner of several National and North American Championships in sailing and iceboating. She is profiled in this tribute by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

Jane Pegel has owned a series of ice boats and speedy scows that have all been given colorful names. People notice boats with interesting names, especially when the boats are at the front of the fleet.

She has been a champion sailor from the Midwest since her earliest days. She has also taught thousands of aspiring young sailors to improve their skills. Her first ice boat was named “Holy Smoke”. Pegel’s C Scow was named “Calamity Jane” and her legendary E Scow was named “Frozen Asset”, a phrase every sailor can appreciate.

Pegel started sailing early in life and was the descendant of a line of sailors. Her grandfather, John O. Johnson, started the Johnson Boat Works on White Bear Lake, Minnesota in 1896. He was the original builder of the A Scow, a 38-foot flyer that impressed all the participants racing for the Seawanhaka Cup.

She has enjoyed an extraordinary career on the water. She was named US Sailing’s Yachtswoman of the Year three times (1964, 1971, 1972), twice won the Adams Cup, the North American Women’s Championship (1957, 1964), and has won championships in the X Class, C Scow, M Scow, and DN Ice boat classes.

She and her husband Bob Pegel were perennial top finishers in the E Scow Class. They won the E Scow Blue Chip regatta and the Inland Yacht Association Championship. They co-skippered their scow with Jane steering the upwind legs in 1968 and finished second in the E Scow National Championship.

Giving back to the sport has been a prerequisite for Pegel. Her first service oriented post was as the fleet captain of the X Class in 1948. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Phi Beta Kappa, (1955) and helped organize a sailing team. Up until that time the “Hoofers” as it was called was more of a club sport.

During the summers she was a sailing instructor at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club, home of another Hall of Fame sailor, Buddy Melges. In 1972 Melges and Pegel were both named Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year – Melges for winning a Gold Medal in the Olympic Games and Pegel for winning the M Scow Class National Championship and several other regattas that season.

When asked if the lessons from ice boating apply to Scow sailing Pegel explains, “In high performance boats there is a transfer especially on lakes where the wind is shifty. For those who sail fast boats we came alert to that magical thing that made one boat faster. We were forced to learn about design. Sailors that key into the variables that exist in the sport are what makes it so interesting.”

She has a long history of serving US Sailing, first as a committee member, then Chair of the One Design Class Council, and eventually on the Board of Directors. In 1970 the Pegels moved to Lake Geneva and Jane ended up being named the Director of the yacht club’s sailing program.

Pegel spent 40 years with the Lake Geneva Yacht Club junior program starting as an instructor to eventually being elected President of the Board of Directors. She was Director of Communications for the International Star Class (1982-1987). As a competitor Jane Pegel has excelled on the water and on the ice. As a contributor she has served the sport with distinction for nearly 80 years.

The Class of 2021 will be formally inducted in a ceremony on October 16, 2021 in Newport, RI.

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