Thayer steps down as AYC race committee chair after 20 years
Feb 22, 2013 (The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Back in 1992, Annapolis Yacht Club members wondered how they would ever find a race committee chairman as respected and dedicated as C. Gaither Scott.
Some two decades later, a new generation of AYC members are fretting the loss of another longtime race committee chairman that more than lived up to the standard set by Scott.
Gordon "Chip" Thayer has retired from that role, leaving a void that will be as hard to fill as when Scott stepped down. Thayer further enhanced the reputation for excellence established by Scott and equally esteemed AYC race officers such as Ron Ward and Jack Lynch.
"Those men that came before me instilled a sense of quality and professionalism in race committee work," Thayer said. "I just tried to build on that tradition and ensure the Annapolis Yacht Club was always known for conducting quality sailboat racing."
Thayer is a longtime resident of Wilmington Del., where he worked for 31 years as a research manager for the DuPont chemical company. He was originally a member of the Columbia Sailing Association, racing a Columbia 30 and C&C 34 named Rampage out of the Sassafras River. He served as commodore and race committee chairman of that club before migrating south.
"As my kids got older, they didn't want to do as much cruising with the family and became more interested in racing, which gradually dragged us down to Annapolis where most of the serious racing was going on," said Thayer, who joined AYC in 1984.
Veteran race committee member Wayne Bretsch knew Thayer had experience running regattas with Columbia SA and suggested he contact Scott about continuing those volunteer efforts at AYC. Thayer made a strong enough impression over the course of seven years that commodore Isaac "Cappy" Kidd asked him to succeed Scott as race committee chairman.
"I always felt that you should give something back to the sport," Thayer said. "I truly believe that serving on the race committee makes you a better racer. You see things on the committee boat that you don't see from inside your boat."
Thayer always made sure Annapolis Yacht Club was on the cutting edge of the latest technology. He recognized the advantages of using a Global Positioning Satellite to set courses and pioneered using mark boats to change courses.
"I think the biggest change that occurred on my watch was the use of mark boats. We move marks a lot more than the old days and it's important to have good people doing that job. I always valued the input and information of my mark boat drivers and involved them in the decision-making."
Thayer was proud that Annapolis Yacht Club developed a world-wide reputation for outstanding race management and hosted numerous major events as a result. The Star World Championships, J/22 World Championships, J/24 World Championships and Mumm 30 World Championships were among the international regattas organized and overseen by AYC during his tenure. Thayer was particularly proud of the sterling reputation AYC had for running the biennial Annapolis-to-Newport Race.
"Chip has been an instrumental figure in the Annapolis Yacht Club racing program and steered us through a lot of changes in the area of race management. He always kept a close eye on what was coming around the corner and kept AYC at the forefront," current commodore Kevin McNeil said. "Chip had tremendous leadership ability. He understood people and how to get them to work together. He mentored many fine race committee members and developed a very strong team."
McNeil, who estimated he competed in hundreds of races managed by Thayer, described him as quiet, composed, organized and methodical.
"Under Chip, the course was always square and the race was always fair. He was like a master conductor," McNeil said. "While we are sad to see Chip step down, we are appreciative of all he's done for the Annapolis Yacht Club."
Some 200 members and guests attended a tribute to Thayer held Thursday night at AYC. Equally recognized for outstanding race committee contributions was Joanie Thayer, who was at her husband's side every step of the way. Chip Thayer called his wife "one of the finest mark boat people we've ever had."
"Chip Thayer raised the standard of sailboat racing on the Chesapeake Bay. He was very innovative and had a nice style that made things easy for competitors," said AYC member and former US Sailing president Gary Jobson. "Chip was a really good sailor himself and brought that experience and knowledge to the race committee."
Both Jobson and McNeil noted that Thayer was always approachable and carefully considered the racer's concerns. "Chip listened to suggestions from sailors and made improvements based on those," Jobson said.
Thayer is handing the reins to George Anderson, whom he said "shares my vision for what race committee work is all about." Anderson has been tutored by Thayer for the past five years and no doubt learned the most important maxim of regatta management.
"It is imperative to know what racers want and give them what they want," Thayer said. "You want the sailors to forget about the race committee. If the sailors are worrying about what's happening on the committee boat, then we're not doing our jobs properly."
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