Dawn Riley, the first woman to compete in both the America’s Cup and in the Whitbread Round the World Race, will receive the 2018 America and the Sea Award from Mystic Seaport.
“Dawn Riley’s impact on international sailing speaks for itself, and this award gives Mystic Seaport the opportunity to call greater attention to the extraordinary accomplishments of this courageous woman,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White. The prestigious award recognizes those individuals and organizations whose extraordinary achievements in the world of maritime exploration, competition, scholarship, and design best exemplify the American character.
Riley stands alone as the first woman to compete in both the America’s Cup and in the Whitbread Round the World Race, two of the pinnacles in the sport of sailing that prior to her had been all but closed to women sailors. Riley also went on to become the first American, male or female, to sail in three America’s Cups and two Whitbread Round the World Races.
Riley trains premier-level American sailors for future Olympic, America’s Cup, and other world-class level sailing competitions, and leads a movement to reinvigorate the sport in this country. One nexus of this movement is Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay, N.Y., where Dawn serves as Executive Director. A high-performance training center for sailors who have progressed beyond traditional coaching methods, Oakcliff’s vision is to “Build American Leaders through Sailing.” Riley’s leadership and the quality of the programs she oversees were recognized recently by New York Yacht Club’s Belle Mente Quantum Racing, which is currently preparing a challenge for the 36th America’s Cup. This syndicate is partnering with Oakcliff to recruit and train members for their America’s Cup Team.
Riley pursued an impressive racing career on the water punctuated by unprecedented accomplishments such as her role as the watch captain/engineer on Maiden, the first all-women’s team in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race; pit person for America3, winner of the 1992 America’s Cup and first woman to have an active role on an America’s Cup team; skipper of Heineken, the only all-women’s entry in the 1993-94 Whitbread Race; team captain of America3, the women’s team in the 1995 America’s Cup; 1999 US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year; America True CEO and Captain in the 2000 America’s Cup; and winning skipper at the 2002 IC45 World Championships.
A black tie gala will be held in Riley and Oakcliff Sailing’s honor in New York City Wednesday, October 3, 2018. This affair is the premier fund-raising event for Mystic Seaport. Past recipients of the America and the Sea Award include philanthropist and environmentalist David Rockefeller, Jr.; oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle; historian David McCullough; legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens; President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas Crowley; philanthropist William Koch; former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman; WoodenBoat Publications founder Jon Wilson; yachtsman and author Gary Jobson; maritime industrialist Charles A. Robertson; author Nathaniel Philbrick; and Rod and Bob Johnstone and their company J/Boats.