Sunday’s National Sailing Hall of Fame annual induction ceremonies at New Orleans’ Yacht Club will represent a merging of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern.
It will also symbolize the Southern Yacht Club’s remarkable comeback from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina more than seven years ago.
The Annapolis, Md.-based sailing hall doesn’t yet have a physical structure to call home, so it rotates its yearly ceremonies between various storied yacht clubs across the country. Last year’s inaugural festivities were held in San Diego.
The 2012 event this weekend comes to New Orleans, the home of the SYC, which traces its roots back to 1849, making it the second-oldest such institution in the country. The hardy NOLA club even survived the havoc of Katrina, the aftermath of which caused a fire that completely destroyed the SYC clubhouse and countless trophies and other historical treasures.
But seven years later, the SYC’s revival will be complete when it hosts the NSHOF induction events, which began Friday and conclude Sunday with the induction ceremonies themselves.
“We have come back,” said Ewell “Corky” Potts III, a former SYC commodore who serves on the hall of fame’s board of directors and who helped guide the local club through the chaos of Katrina. “We had some damage during Hurricane Isaac (in August), but we’ll get there.”
NSHOF Director Lee Tawney said the hall’s decision to stage its 2012 induction festivities at the Southern Yacht Club was a natural one, not only because of Potts’ role with the hall but also because of SYC’s valiant survival.
“We’re dedicating this induction to Southern because of the spirit of the club, which is reflected in its overcoming of adversity with Katrina to rebuild the club, and their commitment to sailing,” Tawney said. “ As we’re recognizing individuals, we’re also recognizing the Southern Yacht Club.”
But along with capping the venerable SYC’s rebirth into a new age, the NSHOF ceremony Sunday will feature nine inductees, including five posthumous new members and four living legends.
The roster of honorees runs from John Cox Stevens, who lived from 1785-1857 and featured prominently in the development of America’s international sailing reputation, to modern technological wizard Stanley Kohnen Honey, who, in addition to his numerous developments in sailing navigation and remote sensoring, was behind several innovations in televised sports broadcasting, including the yellow first-down line in football and the strike zone box in baseball.
Other inductees include posthumous figures Peter Jones Barrett, an Olympic gold medalist; influential helmsman and journalist Robert Newton Bavier Jr.; F. Gregg Bemis, one of the creators of modern racing rules; and Roderick Stephens Jr., a legendary rigger, engineer and author.
In addition to Honey, living 2012 inductees include journalist and ship designer Bruce Robert William Kirby; John Paul Kostecki, who claimed the Olympic, Volvo Ocean Race and America’s Cup crowns to earn a hallowed sailing “grand slam”; and Mark Jeffery Reynolds, a Star sailor who has claimed dozens of race crowns, including an Olympic gold medal.
Just as the Hall of Fame is eager to hold its induction weekend at Southern, members of the local club are elated to welcome the fledgling annual ceremonies.
“Out team is honored to host the induction at the Southern Yacht Club,” Potts said. “We’re proud to be hosting it.”
Potts said the HSHOF is trying to rotate its induction ceremonies from region to region around the country. He also said that induction is a complicated, involved one.
“The process for being inducted gets complicated,” he said. “A lot of factors go into it.”
That produces a wide range of inductees, he added.
“We have people involved with racing, with contributing to the sport, people on the technical side of the sport, with building and designing boats,” he said. “We have a wide spectrum.”
That spectrum perhaps most interestingly includes Honey, an engineering visionary by trade whose development of visual aids — like football’s first-down line — for watching sports have revolutionized athletic broadcasting. Sailing and the creation of new technology for the sport is a side pursuit for Honey.
“In addition to being an outstanding sailor and brilliant navigator, he’s made football so accessible to a broad range of people,” Tawney said. “He’s remarkable.”
Overall, the NSHOF director agreed with Potts’ assertion, saying the hall is glad to welcome such a wide array of inductees into its list of sailing greats.
“We have a wonderful range of people involved with sailing, not only Olympians and America’s Cup sailors, but people involved with the designing of boats and the technical side,” he said.
The NSHOF induction weekend at the Southern Yacht Club began Friday with a youth educational conference and will continue today with a youth sailing event. The festivities will conclude Sunday with the induction ceremony at 1:30 p.m. followed by a season-closing ceremony.
The SYC is located on the southern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, about three miles west of the mouth of the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal, which flows to the Intracoastal Waterway. The club overlooks the mouth of the Municipal Yacht Harbor and the adjacent New Basin Canal.
For directions to the SYC and other club information, visit www.southernyachtclub.org or call (504) 288-4200. The induction ceremonies are by invitation only and not open to the public.
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