Jobson, Gary

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(b. 17 July 1950 in Hackensack, New Jersey), professional sailor, author, and television commentator who built a unique international career by participating in and documenting top-level amateur and professional sailboat racing and the diversity of sailing since the mid-1970s.

Jobson has exhibited an infectious enthusiasm for all forms of sailing since early childhood crewing in small boats on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. His talent blossomed at New York Maritime College where he was on the water almost every day and kept a written record of how each of hundreds of races played out. His concerted practice and racing performance earned him All-American sailor titles three times, and he was named College Sailor of the Year in 1972 and 1973, the year he graduated. Jobson has been quoted as saying, "You are never a better sailor than the day you graduate from college sailing." He applied the experience to coaching at the United States Merchant Marine Academy for four years and then moved to the coaching staff of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Jobson took time off from coaching when he was recruited by the businessman, philanthropist, and yachtsman Ted Turner to be tactician in the 1977 America's Cup, which was still an august amateur event. On board the Twelve Meter Class sloop Courageous, Jobson's job was to provide critical strategy and tactics to Turner at the helm and help with crew coordination during practice. Turner's characteristic brash behavior played favorably with the press although less so with the yachting establishment. Nevertheless, Courageous beat the Australian challenger in four straight races, and the Cup stayed with the New York Yacht Club.

At twenty-six years old, Jobson had applied his racing experience and his coaching skills of communication and tactical analysis toward the success of what had been the underdog boat in the U.S. elimination rounds and then to winning the premiere event of international match racing. Turner helped motivate him by predicting, "Jobson, you will be a household name when this is over."

Jobson has always made a point of sharing what he knows with a wider audience. Turner and Jobson followed up their victory with a book on sailing tactics, The Racing Edge, which gave detailed advice for around-the-buoy racing in identical boats and for longer offshore races where the challenge is to beat a variety of boats evenly handicapped by rating formulas. Sometimes, an ocean race becomes a matter of survival as well as a competition, as in the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race when a storm savaged the fleet in the Irish Sea. Twenty-four boats were abandoned at sea, their crews saved by helicopters or rescue vessels. Fifteen people died. Jobson was with Turner's yacht Tenacious, which sailed the 605 miles through the disastrous tumult to win the race. He addressed the lessons learned from Fastnet and other incidents in his book Storm Sailing. Jobson has built an unprecedented career of lecturing and writing about sailing events around the world, based on his own experience and his insight into the many forms of sailing. Along with his book projects, he has contributed monthly columns to Cruising World and Sailing World magazines in his capacity of editor-at-large.

Most sailors excel in a particular type of boat or type of competition, although they may be intrigued by other sailing events. Jobson has made a point of experiencing all the diversity a wind-driven boat can offer, from small to large and from common designs to exotic feats of technology. "I have gone for the broad range of sailing as opposed to specializing in one particular area of the sport," Jobson said, "whether sailing a dinghy single-handed against one hundred boats, match racing a twelve meter, skipping across an ocean at thirty knots on a megamaran, or coordinating the efforts of twenty-six crew on a maxiyacht."

Since the 1980s, Jobson has added video production and television commentary to his accomplishments. He joined ESPN in 1985, and his coverage of sailing at the 1988 Olympic Games won an Emmy. He has produced thirty shows a year and produced or narrated forty home videos. Jobson uses innovative techniques of onboard cameras and computer animation to create exciting programs for sailors and non-sailors alike. His projects have involved extensive travel from his home in Annapolis, Maryland. The America's Cup competition, which moved to New Zealand in 1997, for example, has grown into a lavish, professional event with live commentary through the weeks of elimination rounds and the final match. Jobson has also given the public an appreciation of the strain and exhilaration felt by the pros sailing the Whitbread Round the World Race, a 32,000-mile, nine-month, ocean marathon.

For a change of pace, Jobson has tackled the adverse conditions of the Arctic and Antarctic on specialized sailboats built for such icy adventures. In his time off, he cruises Chesapeake Bay with his wife and three daughters. While rising to be a respected authority, he continued to find sailing fun, and as Turner predicted, became a household name.

Jobson has been generous with his time in encouraging sailing programs and raising money for charity. He has been the National Regatta chairman for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and he helped start the first sailing team at Hampton University. For the total of his professional and personal contribution to sailing, the United States Sailing Association gave him their highest award in 1999, the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy.

Jobson has excelled in promoting sailing to a broad audience, even while the sport itself was rapidly evolving through technological advancements and benefiting from the spectacles of professional events and corporate sponsorship—encouraged, not coincidentally, by successful media coverage.

Jobson has written for the novice, the expert, and the armchair sailor. Sailing Fundamentals is a fine introduction to sailing skills, and Championship Tactics burnishes the skills of those who think they know almost everything. World Class Sailing is a memoir of Jobson's views of some of the people, places, and yachts that have helped define his career. His videos capture the sights and sounds of sailing at its most challenging. "Caution to the Wind" is the essence of the 1997/1998 Whitbread Race, and "Expedition Antarctica" heads beyond normal recreational cruising grounds.

Sheila McCurdy