Deceased , Modern

Terry J.



Terry Kohler was a life-long competitive sailor actively involved in improving our sport. He was instrumental in reactivating the Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA) and he was President and CEO of the Windway Capital Corporation, a holding company for subsidiaries that included North Sails Group until 2014. Under Kohler’s leadership, North Sails expanded its position as a world leader in sailmaking through an ongoing commitment to designing and producing faster, lighter, and stronger sails.


From Terry’s nomination:

When Lowell North sold North Sails to Terry Kohler in 1983, Terry became a leader of 2500 North employees from around the globe who garnered more Olympic medals and one-design championships than any other sailmaker in history.


As one of the founders and key backers of the Sailing Yacht Research Foundation which leads in the study of wind and water dynamics to improve sailboat performance, Terry influenced and fueled one of the most important advancements in the sport of sailing: the sail itself. Without doubt, Terry had a fundamental influence on the evolution of traditional broad seamed sails to the smooth, fashion-sexy and seamless “one-piece” 3DL/3DR/3DI designs that would soon define the pinnacle of wind management. Sails that would be lighter, faster, stronger and perform in a wider wind ranges than ever before. Under Terry’s leadership, North Sails experienced an 8x growth period. Terry’s passion and enthusiasm for technology and technological manufacturing systems, and his focus on maintaining the existing culture within the company, pushed them to become the world leader in sailmaking. To its credit, North Sails has typically had sails on board all America’s Cup contenders since 1983.


In 2007, Terry participated in a successful international PR campaign to get women’s match racing into the 2012 Olympics. After achieving his Olympic objectives, Kohler then turned to what boat design was needed leading to the development of the new Elliott 6-metre, with the hulls/keels being built by McConaghy in China, mast rigs in South Africa and sails in Sri Lanka. The project then turned into how Terry could get the U.S. teams all the way to the top of the sport in time for the 2012 Olympics, so US Sailing Center Sheboygan then became the strategy to that end. He ordered the first Elliots off the production line, and then worked on the final Olympic specifications and class rules with the International Sailing Federation.


In Sheboygan, Terry was doing “everything” necessary to launch Sail Sheboygan as one of the top venues for female sailing athletes to train. Terry then helped WIMRA set the groundwork for the WIM Series to start in 2013. Two successful years of competition have seen the WIM Series crown two series champions as over 150 sailors from 19 countries competed in ten events. Through Terry, WIMRA and other match racing supporters were able to lobby to get WMR included in the London Olympics. And also with Terry’s financial support of Sail Sheboygan, the fleet of boats (12 Elliott 6ms, equipment, spares, sails, and a full time top-notch support team) for the Olympics was purchased and supported for the Olympics and two primary regattas (the Olympic Test event in England and the World Championship in Perth, Australia) prior to the Games. Terry also strongly supported the U.S. efforts in the Olympic women’s match racing by supporting the winter training facility in Key Biscayne and the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta with a fleet of racing boats and umpire boats transported to Florida from Sheboygan for three winters.


In 2015, Terry Kohler was the driving force and contributor to a monumental effort to put a paraplegic back into a SONAR sailboat and restore to him the ability to sail. With the efforts of North Sails, Harken Manufacturing and his Santa Cruz team he supported the development and installation of a bite-switch steering mechanism and a touch plate powered winch system for a paraplegic man, Steve Heronemus, a man who has been living with ALS for over 10 years.



Sailing Related Accomplishments and Honors:

  • 2013, ISAF Medal – Outstanding Service to the Sport of Sailing
  • 2010, Recipient, US Sailing’s Nathaniel G. Herreshoff Trophy
  • 2010, first inductee into Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation’s Hall of Fame
  • Instrumental in reactivating Women’s International Match Racing Association (WIMRA)
  • Participated in a successful public relations campaign to get women’s match racing into the 2012 Olympics
  • Instrumental in launching Sail Sheboygan as one of the top venues for female sailing athletes to train
  • Set the groundwork for WIM series to start in 2013
  • Strongly supported U.S. efforts in the Olympic Women’s Match Racing by supporting the winter training facilities and Olympic Classes Regatta
  • Gave financial support to provide a fleet of boats for Women’s match racing training
  • 2008, founded the Sheboygan Youth Sailing Center; later that year the sailing facility was named fourth US Sailing Center and the only one in the Midwest
  • Founding member, GL-70 Association (Great Lakes 70)
  • Charter member, US Yacht Racing Union
  • Founding member and contributor to Sailing Yacht Research Foundation
  • Major contributor to Inland Lakes Yachting Association, Partnership for America’s Cup Technology Foundation, US Sailing Foundation, Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Herreshoff Marine
  • A book recently published in 2021 titled Inverted Climb, by Jon Helminak, is a biography of the life of Terry Kohler.   Contained therein are numerous passages that reflect directly on Terry’s nomination. Although not covered in the book, Terry’s contribution to woman’s matching racing in the 2012 London Olympics was significant. This philanthropic effort consisted of providing the Elliot 6m’s for training at Sail Sheboygan.  Then providing the boats for Olympic Test event in England and the World Championship in Perth.  And then in the US, providing the boats and the Umpire boats at the winter training facility in Key Biscayne.
  • Terry served our country as an Air Force B 47 bomber pilot during the Cold War.
  • With his yacht Agape, Terry defended the Canada’s Cup for Bayview Yacht Club in 1978.  Although losing to Evergreen, it should be noted that they were two vastly different designs even both rated Two Ton under the IOR Rule.
  • In 1984, under Terry’s leadership the Vollrath Co. purchased one of the leading sail making companies, North Sails.  Under Terry’s leadership for 30+ years as Chairman of the North Board of Directors, North developed the most significant advance in sail making, the 3DL and 3Di one piece membrane sails.
  • For the 2000 America’s Cup in New Zealand, Terry provided the Yacht “NorthStar” for use by TV media as the on the water commentary.  The ESPN program was widely watched throughout the US.
  • Two other philanthropic endeavors of note:
    • Support of the International Crane Foundation.  This was twofold.  The reintroduction whooping Crane and Trumpeter Swan populations in the US.  The second major support of the ICF was to fly four Siberian Crane eggs from captive Cranes in Wisconsin back to Siberia to hatch.  This amounted to an around the world flight in 1987 with Terry flying the private twin engine jet. The good news is that all four hatched.
    • Terry’s support for the restoration of the Onion River trout stream resulted in the same clear water that flowed eighty years ago.  Today it is again a viable trout stream.

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