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Hall of Fame 2020, Thomas Atkins



The state of Ohio lost the talents of Tom Atkins in 1987 when he elected to move to Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  He had started a Junior sailing program at Toledo Country Club, helped initiate the University of Toledo Sailing Club, and established a sailing program for the Aquatics Department at the University of Pittsburgh.

In Sheboygan in 1989 he established his own marketing business, using his skills successfully and applying those skills to create, improve and manage sailing programs.  Sheboygan Yacht Club’s Commodore asked Tom to Chair a committee to start a Junior sailing program. This entailed setting a budget, financing, fundraising, sponsorship, site location, and establishment of a 501(c)(3) Foundation.  Initially, the Foundation acquired a fleet of ten Optimist Dinghies.  The organization matured into the Sheboygan Youth Sailing Club, which now has fleets of J/24s, Lightnings, 420s, Lasers, a high school sailing team, and adult sailing lessons, now serving several hundred people per season.

Tom was asked to rebuild the Sheboygan Yacht Club Sea Scout Ship #50.  By rebranding, marketing directly inside high schools, and combining kayaking along with sailing and racing, the enrollment jumped to 25 in the first years and has averaged 15 members per year since.  A 501(c)(3) Foundation for the Sea Scouts was formed and donations to the foundation included three Catalina 22s, a Merit 22, a Ranger 25, a Watkins 29, two moorings in Door County, several Lightnings, Lasers, Force 5s, and a DN Iceboat.  Scouts built wooden kayaks during the winter.  Four plastic kayaks and four Stand Up Paddleboards were purchased.  The Watkins 29 was kept on a mooring in Ephraim Harbor, and with volunteers the Scouts were able to enjoy short cruises. 

Tom was asked and joined the Sail Sheboygan Board of Directors in 2006.  Sail Sheboygan is the non-profit group formed to get Women’s Match Racing into the 2012 Olympic Games.  He served as President of the Board when millions of dollars were raised and spent improving the waterfront just north of Sheboygan Yacht Club to accommodate the new requirements for Match Racing.  This was all accomplished and Sail Sheboygan was designated as a US Sailing Center.  To support this Olympic effort, Sail Sheboygan purchased 20 Elliot 6m sailboats and six center console 17’ Umpire powerboats. Tom trained and became a US Sailing Judge and umpired many match racing events, even going to the 2012 Olympic Games in Weymouth, England.  Sail Sheboygan’s success is well known from the many region and national championships hosted through the years. 

Tom serves and supports the sport of sailing as a US Sailing National Judge, a Principal Race Officer, a presenter at US Sailing Symposiums, a U.S. Coast Guard Captain certified with a 100 Ton license with tow and sail endorsement, and serves on Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation’s Racing Rules Appeals Committee.

Tom finds the time to race his Hobie 33 sailboat, Kemosabe, and has competed in many Chicago-Mackinac, Queen’s Cup and HOOK Races, in addition to a full schedule locally.

Tom infrequently quotes a mentor’s expression, “Never underestimate how much can be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit.”  Well, this is one time you, Tom, get the credit.  The Board of Directors of Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation welcomes Thomas Atkins into the Lake Michigan Sailing Hall of Fame.

October 8, 2020

Thomas “Tom” Atkins was nominated by the Board of Directors of Sheboygan Yacht Club to the Lake Michigan Sailing Hall of Fame. 

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