North Sails NEWS
Story Contributors: Tom Whidden
TOM WHIDDEN RECEIVES AMERICA AND THE SEA AWARD
An Industry Leader, Tom has logged Extraordinary Achievements in Maritime Exploration, Competition, Scholarship, and Design which Best Exemplify the American character.
Mystic Seaport Museum honored Thomas A. Whidden, President and CEO of North Technology Group, 2004 inductee into America’s Cup Hall of Fame and 2017 inductee into the National Sailing Hall of Fame, with the 2020 America and the Sea Award. The prestigious award recognizes those individuals and organizations whose extraordinary achievements in maritime exploration, competition, scholarship, and design best exemplify the American character. The award was presented at a virtual gala fundraiser on Friday, October 23, 2020. Fellow Hall of Fame Sailor and 8th America and the Sea Award Recipient Gary Jobson presented the award to Whidden at a small socially-distanced gathering of Whidden’s family and friends in the River Room of Latitude 41° Restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut, from where the event was live-streamed. Jobson shared a brief history of the America’s Cup, followed by the award presentation, commenting that Whidden has contributed two essential things to the sport of sailing:” As an industry leader, he has made sailing more efficient, with better sails that last longer and go faster…and he’s been outstanding on the racecourse.”
Tom Whidden, who grew up in Connecticut and learned to sail on Long Island Sound, has had an extraordinary career both on and off the water as an accomplished tactician for Dennis Conner in eight America’s Cup campaigns, winning three, and as a revolutionary sailmaker, bringing sailmaking from the manufacturing of paneled sails in a vast network of sail lofts to the current centrally managed, technologically driven, manufacturing system. Thanks to Whidden’s remarkable vision, North Sails has become a leader in the industry, with every America’s Cup winner and every Volvo Ocean Race winner choosing to race with North Sails since 1992 and 1993, respectively. Mystic Seaport Museum President Steve White said, “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.”
In his wonderfully modest, graceful demeanor, Whidden remarked on receiving the award, “What a wonderful honor it is to be this year’s Mystic Seaport Museum America and the Sea Award recipient. I join an amazing group of previous recipients who have made incredible contributions in so many different aspects of maritime, sailing, and ocean life. I have spent my life racing sailboats and making products that make those boats perform their best. For me to be recognized alongside other abundantly accomplished previous honorees, for doing what I most love, by the most prominent maritime Museum in the United States, is a dream come true.”
The virtual event was joined by friends and supporters from Nantucket to New York to Florida to Los Angeles, and Whidden was congratulated from around the world with remarks from Jimmy Buffett; NYYC’s American Magic Skipper Terry Hutchinson in New Zealand; Sir Lindsay Owens-Jones, L’Oréal Honorary Chairman and owner of Magic Carpet 3; Peter Dubens, Managing Partner of Oakley Capital and Chairman of North Sails Technology; Christopher J. Culver, Vice Commodore, NYYC; and Jes Staley, CEO, Barclays. The virtual event generated $520,284 through sponsorships, single tickets, live and silent auctions, and a virtual paddle raise appeal. The Museum would like to express a sincere thank you to the gala committee, Board of Trustees, and the myriad supporters who gave in honor of Tom Whidden and to further the mission of Mystic Seaport Museum.
Past recipients of the America and the Sea Award include American businesswoman and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt; groundbreaking America’s Cup sailor Dawn Riley, philanthropist, and environmentalist David Rockefeller, Jr.; boat designers Rod and Bob Johnstone and their company J/Boats; author and historian Nathaniel Philbrick; maritime industrialist Charles A. Robertson; Hall of Fame sailor and author Gary Jobson; WoodenBoat Publications founder Jon Wilson; former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman; oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle; America’s Cup sailor William Koch; President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas Crowley; historian David McCullough; and legendary yacht designer Olin J. Stephens, II.