, Modern

James

Hunt

Sham

1936

James “Sham” Hunt is an accomplished American sailor and Olympic champion. He competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and won a gold medal in the 5.5-metre class with the boat Minotaur.

Sham Hunt grew up in a sailing family and spent most of his life in a sailing environment. His father was the yacht designer, inventor and National Sailing Hall of Famer, Ray Hunt. Sham and his siblings were the family crew for their parents for three decades of racing on Hunt designed boats.

At the age of 14, Sham was the “Charter Captain” of the family’s 53′ ketch Zara. He also worked at Marblehead Rental Boat as a young teenager. Altogether, the Hunt family of six raced in dozens of ocean races in New England and East Coast waters, winning a high percentage of them. The highlight for them was Cowes Week in 1955 when they won six races out of six in Harrier, their Concordia 41. They followed that by winning the Annapolis Newport Race and winning their class in the Newport Bermuda Race.

While an undergraduate at Middlebury College, he spent one summer with Dick Fisher building the production molds for the first Boston Whaler, a breakthrough design from his father.

n 1958, he spent the summer as crew aboard Easterner for the America’s Cup trials. The tactician was his father, Ray, Easterner‘s designer.

After a six-month stint in the Army, he went to work for the O’Day Company in 1959. In 1960, National Sailing Hall of Famer George O’Day, the company founder, Sham and Dave Smith teamed up in a 5.5-meter for the Olympic Trials. After winning the trials in Marblehead, they switched to a Ray Hunt-designed 5.5-meter named Minotaur and went on to win the Olympic gold medal in Rome.

Sham worked his way up to become president of O’Day Sailboats and also president of Lear Siegler Marine and Bangor Punta, the parent companies of O’Day, Cal, Ranger and Prindle Catamarans. As president, he was responsible for 700 employees in three plants in California, Florida, and Massachusetts. In the 1980s, they were the largest sailboat manufacturer in North America. From 1959 to 1984, the O’Day plant built 47,284 sailboats.

While working in the boatbuilding business, Sham found time to enjoy his passion of racing sailboats. In 1961, he missed winning the 45-boat Jollyboat North American Championship by 1/4 point. In 1962, he again sailed aboard Easterner in the America’s Cup Trials. In 1963, he crewed for his father in the 5.5-meter World Championship which they handily won without sailing the last race. In 1968, Sham decided to race for the Mallory Cup in San Francisco. He won 12 straight races in the two qualifying rounds and started the finals with two more wins. He ended up winning the Mallory Cup that year with his brother Josh as one of the crew. By now, he was campaigning an International Tempest and won the Tempest Nationals in 1971. In 1973, he was fourth in the Tempest World’s Championship in Marstrand, Sweden, the first U.S. boat.

Following his retirement from the marine industry in 1986, he and his wife, Nina, took a three-year sail to Turkey aboard their O’Day 40. After returning from Turkey, he spent two years as a consultant to Sailing World Magazine. He organized and presented a “Sailing Business Seminar” which met or exceeded all objectives. Following his time away from the marine industry, some of which he spent as a full-time ski instructor with a 110-person staff, he became vice president of operations of Corsair Marine in San Diego, the largest trimaran manufacturer at the time. He declined their offer to become CEO. He was awaiting the completion of his new 45′ catamaran, and decided to go to work at Shaw Boats in Seattle to help in the completion of his boat.

After the boat was launched, he and Nina cruised the Pacific Northwest and then proceeded to the Panama Canal and on up to New England. In 2007, he made a Transatlantic passage from Newport to Marseille, via the Azores and the Belearic Islands. Two years later, he sailed from the Bahamas to Padanaram, Massachusetts. He conservatively estimates that he has more than 130,000 sea miles under his belt with no incidents.

Sham’s life has been mostly spent either building or sailing boats. He estimates that he crewed for his father in 75% of the races his father sailed. He was always a fierce but friendly competitor who never yelled, traits he inherited from his father.

Accomplishments and Awards

Year(s) Place(s) Event
1973 4th (1st U.S. boat) Tempest World Championship
1971 1st Tempest National Championship
1968 1st Mallory Cup – won 12 straight races
1967 2nd nternational Tempest Championship
1963 1st 5.5-Metre World Championship (crewed for his father and didn’t need to sail last race)
President, O’Day Sailboats
1962 Crew on Easterner, America’s Cup Trials
1960 1st Olympic Trials 5.5-Metre
1960 Olympic Gold Medalist 5.5-Metre
1958, 1962 Crewed aboard Easterner for America’s Cup Trials
1955 Cowes Race Week – won six out of six races aboard family yacht (a Concordia 41)
1950-2006 17 Bermuda Races
Year(s) Mileage Destinations
2015 775 miles Grand Cayman to Cuba
2015 850 miles Dominican Republic to Grand Cayman
2010 1,100 miles Bahamas to Padanaram, Massachusetts
2009 530 miles Northern Italy to Tunisia
2007 4,200 miles Transatlantic passage Newport to Marseille, via Azores and Balearic Islands
1995-1996 13,000 miles With his wife sailed the Pacific Northwest, through the Panama Canal and up to Massachusetts, 10 countries
1986-1989 30,000 miles With his wife, children, and sometimes friends, sailed to Turkey and back – over three years, visited 23 countries
1983 1,100 miles Bahamas to Massachusetts

 

 

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