Graham Hall, sailor and teacher, 1942-2005

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The measure of a person’s life is the inspiration passed on to others. Longtime sailing coach Graham Hall taught many young people racing skills and moral values. I was one of these grateful recipients.

The measure of a person’s life is the inspiration passed on to others. Longtime sailing coach Graham Hall taught many young people racing skills and moral values. I was one of these grateful recipients.

On March 25 more than 100 family members, former students, shipmates and friends gathered at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., to honor Graham’s life. He died after a short battle with cancer last August. In the audience were two Navy admirals as well as other successful people who credit Graham for helping set important goals in their lives.

Graham Hall grew up in Ohio. He was a standout sailor at Kings Point (Class of 1964). After several years as a merchant marine officer, Graham became a sailing coach at the State University of New York Maritime College. In 1972 he moved on to become a sailmaker with Ratsey & Lapthorne. Four years later he was recruited to be director of sailing at the U.S. Naval Academy. His teams at both colleges won the prestigious Leonard Fowle Trophy symbolic of the overall college sailing championship.

In 1969 Graham won the Mallory Cup, US Sailing men’s championship, and was frequently at the top of the fleet in a variety of boats including Flying Scots, 420s and penguins.

In 1974 he served in the afterguard of the America’s Cup defense candidate, Valiant. He skippered in many SORCs and frequently wrote for several national marine publications. Graham was also a coach for Bill Koch’s America3 during the 1992 America’s Cup defense. In 2000 he returned to the Maritime College.

Tragically, his career was shortened when he was diagnosed with cancer. He died just six months later. At the Kings Point memorial his daughters, Whitney and Morgan, and brother, Tylor, along with many friends offered their thanks and memories.

I remember my first practice as a freshman at Maritime. After watching me sail in a few practice starts, he waved me over to his coach boat. He said, “You’re wasting your time spinning all over the place. What you need is an organized approach to racing.”

I listened carefully to his suggestion. Over the next three years I worked on improving. During my junior year, I fouled in one race and capsized in another in a major regatta. I returned to the dock to rotate boats. I was quite upset with my performance. Graham explained, “Your problem is you’re worried about your final results. What you should really do is just go out there and have fun.”

Thanks Graham. I’ve been doing it ever since.