Tom Whidden: 2020
Tom Whidden, one of the most applauded sailors of all time, member of both the America’s Cup Hall of Fame and the National Sailing Hall of Fame, and President and CEO of North Technology Group, parent company of North Sails, is the 2020 recipient of the America and the Sea Award.
Mystic Seaport Museum President Steve White remarked, “Tom is a perfect fit for this award. Not only does he have a distinguished record as a competitive sailor, but he has also served as an important ambassador for the sport and the maritime community. For young sailors across the country and beyond, he has been a positive role model and mentor.”
Whidden will be honored for his remarkable accomplishments in competitive sailing and his leadership in the design and manufacturing of technologically advanced sails at North Sails. “I have spent my life racing sailboats and making products that make those boats perform their best. For me to be recognized by the most prominent maritime museum in the United States, for doing what I love most, is a dream come true,” remarked Whidden.
Whidden’s career soared in 1979 when he joined Dennis Conner in a total of eight America’s Cup campaigns, racing as tactician in five series races and winning three times: 1980, 1987 (regaining the cup after Australia’s 1983 victory), and 1988. He has won the Newport-Bermuda Race five times, and had repeated wins on the European racing circuit.
Following his racing success, Whidden joined North Sails in 1987, building it into the largest sailmaking company in the world, and later becoming CEO and co-owner of North Technology Group. He led North Sails and North Technology Group through decades of evolution from manufacturing paneled sails in a vast network of sail lofts to the current centrally managed, technologically driven, manufacturing system.
In 2004, Whidden was elected to the America’s Cup Hall of Fame “for his brilliance as a tactical advisor, his soundness as a crew organizer, and his mastery of winning in difficult boats under the most demanding conditions.” Most recently, he was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.
Mystic Seaport Museum will recognize Whidden’s remarkable career on and off the water by awarding him the America and the Sea Award at a black tie gala in Mystic, CT, on Friday, October 23, 2020. This affair is the premier fundraising event for Mystic Seaport Museum.
Past recipients of the America and the Sea Award include American businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt; America’s Cup sailor and trailblazer Dawn Riley; philanthropist and environmentalist David Rockefeller Jr.; celebrated sailors and co-founders of J/Boats, Rod and Bob Johnstone; New York Times best-selling and National Book Award winning author Nathaniel Philbrick; oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle; former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman; WoodenBoat Publications founder Jon Wilson; yachtsman and author Gary Jobson; maritime industrialist Charles A. Robertson; among other maritime greats.
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