Hawaii loses 1 of the best in the world
Cy Gillette, a true icon of Hawaii's sailing community, died in his sleep late last month at the age of 92.
As a recipient in 1995 of the nationally prestigious Nathaniel G. Herreshoff trophy -- named after the world-renowned boat designer and builder -- Gillette's peers most assuredly recognized him as an important contributor to the sport of sailing worldwide.
Gillette originally came to Hawaii from Detroit as a naval aviator in February 1941. He survived Dec. 7 at the Kaneohe Marine Base, and by the end of World War II, he had decided to make Oahu his home.
In 1947, Gillette, as one of some 40 members of the Kaneohe Yacht Club, was involved in securing the club's first loan to build a clubhouse lanai. He went on to become its commodore a record three times, as well as become a life member.
He was also a life member of the Waikiki Yacht Club, the first and only commodore of the Royal Hawaiian Ocean Racing Club, and the first commodore, in 1966, of the Hawaii Yacht Racing Association.
Gillette's presence at the highest levels of national and international sailing was no less involved. He is a member of the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Hall of Fame, a board member of the Transpacific Yacht Club, and a judge and board member of the United States Sailing Association (now known as US SAILING).
As an International Yacht Racing Union judge, Gillette assisted in establishing the union's first on-the-water umpiring program in the late 1980s.
He went on to become a strong advocate of such umpiring at the America's Cup Races in San Diego in 1992, and was the chief umpire and jury chair in that year's defender selection series.
Gillette also became Dennis Conner's senior rules advisor during his 1987 and 1995 America's Cup campaigns.
It was surely Gillette's deep involvement in sailing at that international level that prompted US SAILING to award him the 50-year-old Herreshoff trophy.
The names inscribed on that trophy read like a Who's Who of yachting in the U.S., beginning with the likes of Henry Sears and Henry Morgan, and including Harry Melges Jr., Olin Stevens II and George O'Day.
Still, it would be a disservice to the memory of Gillette not to mention his personal involvement and love for sailing here in Hawaii. From dinghies to maxi-racers, he did it all.
He also was concerned about the future of sailing. "I am always glad to see our Junior Sailing program grow," Gillette once told me prophetically. "But I'm concerned they will not have enough new facilities."
"I don't remember not sailing," Gillette said after winning a gold medal racing a Cal 20 in the Aloha State Games a dozen years ago. "And I have no intention of slowing up as long as I am comfortable."
Apparently true to his word, I was told recently he was out racing his Cal 20 on Kaneohe Bay the week before his passing.