February 21, 2023

Leading By Example

Interview with Dual HOF'r Dawn Riley

Cruising World with Dawn Riley

Riley was named Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year in 1999 for winning in fleet- and match-race disciplines. Riley has won One Ton Cup and Women’s Match Race World championships. She got an early break five years after graduating from Michigan State University by joining the crew of Maiden, an all-­women crew who competed in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

After the Whitbread race, her career took off. In 1990, Bill Koch was organizing a bid to defend the America’s Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club. Koch thought it was a good idea to include a woman on the crew. When Riley’s name was suggested, Koch gave her a tryout. In 1992, his syndicate America3 successfully defended the America’s Cup. Riley now had an America’s Cup on her resume too.   

Today, she is in constant motion as a sought-after speaker for yacht clubs and corporate events. She has served on many boards, including the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by tennis great Billie Jean King to expand opportunities for girls and women in sports. Riley served as president in 2003 and 2004, the only sailor to lead the organization. Other boards where she has served include the US Sailing Association, America True Youth Program, National Sailing Hall of Fame and National Women’s Sailing Association. I was president of US Sailing when Riley joined our board of directors. She never missed a meeting, was well-prepared, asked good questions, and had suggestions that made a difference in our approach to administrating the sport of sailing.  

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