May’s image in the 2021 Ultimate Sailing Calendar brings me back many years. Although this exciting moment was captured during the most recent Star World Championships at Porto Cervo, Italy; when I look at Paul Cayard (at the helm) I still see the energetic young athlete I first met nearly four decades ago! Since that time we have crossed paths many times: at 61 Paul is still actively competing at the top of the field.
Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Paul has been an icon in the world of professional sailing, and a bit of an anomaly. A passionate Star boat sailor – as you can see from this in-your-face shot by Carlo Borlenghi – I’ve also captured him while competing in the Admiral’s Cup, Kenwood Cup, Transpac and more. He’s been involved in nearly every America’s Cup campaign since 1983 and led EF Language to victory in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race: an event which later became the Volvo Ocean Race, where he skippered Pirates of the Caribbean to a second place finish in 2005-06. Large or small, double-handed or crewed; Paul has, I guess you could say, “Star Quality.”
And the Star, shown here, is his favorite platform of all time!
This classic one-design, first launched over 100 years ago, has captivated thousands of competitors since then, and was the Olympic Class keelboat from 1932 to 2012.
At 23-feet LOA, it boasts a massive, oversized mainsail which forces the crew, and often driver, to hike hard and low when the breeze kicks up. Despite its brutality, leading sailors and pros continue to be committed to Star sailing as it tests both their strategic and physical dexterity and ‘keeps them on their toes.’
It was racing stars on San Francisco Bay where Paul first caught the attention of the legendary Tom Blackaller. He went on to take Bronze Medals in the 1984, 1985 and 1987 World Championships, winning Gold in 1988. He returned in 1992 with another Bronze, but admitted America’s Cup racing forced him to take a little hiatus from Star sailing. However he returned in 2013, adding another bronze to his CV at the 2018 Worlds, and is still competing wholeheartedly to this day. And just last month, with Luke Lawrence as crew, he won the 2021 Star Western Hemisphere Championship: a “flawless series” as this dynamic duo dominated the leaderboard the entire event. “I love the Star,” Paul has declared. adding, “It’s the boat of my life.”
But even more exciting news is that Paul – a two-time Olympian, US Rolex Yachtsman of the Year (1998) and inductee to the US Sailing Hall of Fame (2011) – has recently been named Executive Director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing program!
“Paul’s passion for Olympic Sailing and his drive for excellence has inspired American sailors for decades, both on and off the racecourse,” announced US Sailing President Cory Sertl. “His strong leadership skills and experiences, combined with his energy and enthusiasm, will be a tremendous asset to the program.”
Although the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games are imminent, Paul says the 2024 Paris and 2028 Los Angeles Olympics are the goalposts. “Being an Olympian is certainly part of my motivation, however, being an American and part of a movement to support American sailors taking their rightful place amongst world class competition is my strongest motivation. We have everything we need to win in this country; what we need to do is come together as a movement, as Americans, to bring American Excellence to bear on the field of play, through our very dedicated and talented athletes.”
I am so excited to see what stellar performance Paul can inspire in our Olympic athletes. Star Quality indeed!
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