2013-12-19 / News

Islander named finalist for sailor of year

By Ken Shane

Islander Tim Healy, far left, celebrates after winning the J/24 world championship in Ireland earlier this year. Healy is on the shortlist for U.S. Sailing’s yachtsman of the year. Islander Tim Healy, far left, celebrates after winning the J/24 world championship in Ireland earlier this year. Healy is on the shortlist for U.S. Sailing’s yachtsman of the year. Jamestown resident Tim Healy has been shortlisted to become the 2014 U.S. Sailing yachtsman of the year, which will be presented at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco on Feb. 25. Healy, the reigning J/24 world champion, is among a group of nine men and six women who were recently named finalists.

In addition to Healy, the field includes nine other world champions who sail everything from cutting edge hydrofoils and kite boards, to one-design sailboats. Only one other nominee this year, J/70 North American champion Heather Gregg-Earl of Boston, hails from New England.

U.S Sailing has presented the yachtsman and yachtswoman of the year awards since 1961, and the awards have been sponsored by Rolex since 1980. The awards recognize on-the-water achievements in the previous calendar year, and are considered one of the most prestigious honors a sailor can receive. Past winners include Ken Read, Dennis Connor, John Kostecki, Anna Tunnicliffe, Buddy Melges, Betsy Alison and Ted Turner.

Healy grew up sailing Bluejays with his brother and sister in Niantic, Conn. He was on the sailing team at East Lyme High School and at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. When he graduated from college in 1995, he moved to Newport. Healy eventually relocated to Jamestown in 2009. He is currently working as the onedesign coordinator at the North Sails office in Portsmouth.

In 1979, Healy’s father owned a J/24. Although he didn’t race the boat then, he did gain valuable sailing experience. He began racing J/24s when he moved to Newport and began crewing for sailors in the local fleet. In addition to J/24s, Healy has competed in the Lightning class and on J/70s.

The 2013 world championship was not the first for Healy in the J/24. He won it in 2010 when the event was held in Malmo, Sweden. He has won the J/24 North Americans three times as a helmsman, and this summer he crewed for John Mollicone in a winning effort in the North American championship that took place on Narragansett Bay.

This year, Healy took his fourcrew members to Ireland for the J/24 worlds. It was his first trip to Ireland, and since it was too expensive to transport his J/24, he chartered one there. While the boat was similar to the one he sails in the United States, built around the same time and by the same builder in Italy, it was not in the condition he was hoping for.

“The boat needed a lot of work,” Healy said. “We spent three days prior to the event totally refinishing the keel, replacing deck hardware and the running rigging.”

Fortunately the parts were readily available in the port of Howth on the Irish Sea, which is where the championship was held. However, the work the boat required cut down on practice time substantially, although Healy and his crew managed to get one day on the water prior to the first day of racing.

“By the third day of the regatta we were fully up to speed,” Healy said. “We needed to gain some ground, and once our speed got to where it should have been, we gained confidence.”

It was a tightly contested regatta, with a field of 40 J/24s from all over the world. Healy was expecting heavy wind for the entire championship, based on the experiences of sailors he knew competed in Howth. As it turned out, the first two days were raced in light air. The wind began to pick up on the third day, and by the last day, the expected strong winds had shown up.

Healy didn’t take the lead until the next to last race in the fiveday, 10-race event. There were three boats that still had a chance to win when the last race started, and Healy’s fifth-place finish was just enough to hold off his two competitors.

“It came down to the wire,” Healy said. “It was really excit- ing.”

Healy has been shortlisted for the Rolex award two times previously, but did not win. Despite those disappointments, he is excited about the nomination. Healy said being part of the strong field of nominees is an honor, and he thinks this year he faces the toughest group yet.

“I feel very lucky that I was able to sail in those regattas,” Healy said. “My teammates own the nomination as much as I do. Having those guys sail with me and keeping that team together is really the key to the success.”

While the J/24 championship is primarily responsible for his nomination, Healy’s wins in J/70 regattas during Key West Race Week in January, Charleston Race week in April, and a third in the J/70 North Americans in September also contributed to his nomination.

Despite the strong results, the competition for the award is fierce this year.

“The field is very good,” Healy said. “Out of the men’s finalists, everyone has won a world championship except one person. It’s a tight competition and there are excellent sailors on the list.”

Next year will be another busy one for Healy, especially in this area where the J/24 and J/70 world championships will both be held in September. He will also compete in the J/70 nationals in Rochester next July, and will defend his titles in Key West and Charleston.

Healy said if the opportunity arose to sail in a major international competition like the America’s Cup, he would take it. He described the event as the pinnacle. At the moment, however, he is focused on building the business at North Sails and racing in the classes he’s currently involved in.

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