Dennis Conner Awarded New York Yacht Club's Highest Honor
America’s Cup winner, Olympic medalist and sailing legend Dennis Conner was honored with the New York Yacht Club Medal on Thursday evening, November 10, at the Club’s 44th Street Clubhouse in the heart of Manhattan.
The medal (at right) was first awarded in 1964 to the members of the Constellation America’s Cup syndicate as an expression of the Club’s appreciation. Since 1985, the flag officers of the New York Yacht Club have periodically awarded the New York Yacht Club Medal in recognition of achievements of particular merit or outstanding contributions to the Club or yachting in general.
"Dennis Conner has had more impact on sailing than any sailor in the world over the past four decades," said New York Yacht Club Commodore A. Rives Potts Jr., a former America's Cup shipmate of Conner. "For those of us fortunate enough to sail with Dennis, we are all better sailors because of our time on board with DC."
This represents just the 17th time the Club has awarded this medal. Previous honorees include legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens, America’s Cup challenger Baron Marcel Bich and America’s Cup winner and television commentator Gary Jobson.
"It was huge night for me," said Conner, who was joined in New York by dozens of former shipmates, with many others sending congratulations via the Internet. "Being awarded the New York Yacht Club medal is special; it's one of the most coveted honors in yachting. What really meant a lot was being able to share this with so many friends, and the people who made this medal possible. It was a awards dinner that will be long remembered by the sailing legends who attended."
Photo credits: © Paul Todd/Outsideimages.com, © Stuart Streuli/NYYC
Conner's exemplary record as a yachtsman spans all facets of the sport. He won a bronze medal in the Tempest class at the 1976 Olympics, has numerous world championships to his credit and sailed in two Whitbread Races.
The America’s Cup, however, was one constant in his career. He sailed on board Ted Hood’s winning Courageous team in 1974 and then skippered winning teams in 1980, 1987 and 1988. This 30-year-plus association with sailing’s flagship event wasn’t without its challenges. His relationship with the New York Yacht Club suffered after Conner lost the Cup in 1983 to John Bertrand and Australia II—ending the Club’s historic 132-year winning streak-and he challenged for the 1987 Cup representing the San Diego Yacht Club. The 1988 defense was marred by a protracted legal battle that continued long after the famously lopsided match between Conner’s wing-sailed catamaran Stars & Stripes and Sir Michael Fay’s monstrous monohull from New Zealand. Nonetheless his standing among the greatest sailors ever to compete for the Auld Mug is without question. He was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame with its inaugural class in 1993. Conner is also a member of the first group of inductees to the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Conner's relationship with the New York Yacht Club, where he has been a member since 1980, has long since been repaired. Conner partnered with the Club for his final challenge for the America’s Cup, in Auckland in 2003.
"He is the ultimate team leader," said Potts. "He never raises his voice and expects everyone to do his or her job in every situation without orders. His work ethic and preparation are unparalleled. His abilities to focus on boat speed, position on the course, sail selection and the location of every significant competitor are almost super human."
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