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Meet: Dawn Riley, the first woman to manage an America's Cup sailing team

photo of dawn riley

As CEO and Captain of America True, Dawn is the first woman to manage an America's Cup sailing team. She is also the first American to have raced on two America's Cup teams and two Whitbread Round-the-World sailing teams. Her goal is to lead a successful challenge for the most coveted trophy in sail racing history, the America's Cup. America True is using NASA technology to design the boat that Dawn and her crew will race in Auckland, New Zealand during America's Cup 2000. NASA Lewis Research Center assisted the team with computational fluid dynamic codes to help with their design.

Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, where she sailed on Lake St. Clair, Dawn became obsessed with sailboat racing at the age of 13. She joined North Star Sail Club and became commodore of the junior sailing program. Dawn said it was difficult to break into professional sailing, and she had to clean quite a few boat bottoms and learn to fix outboard motors before people took her seriously. But she didn't give up.

Dawn now has a resume that includes crewing on the Maxi Yacht Morning Glory as they set the all time course record in the 1996 Sydney to Hobart ocean race. She was also team captain of America3, the historic all-women America's Cup team in 1995, a member of the winning America's Cup team America3 in 1992, and skipper of Heineken, the all-women team in the 1993-94 Whitbread Round the World sailing marathon.

According to Riley, the America True vision of teamwork means choosing the right person for each job, man or woman. Youth outreach is another part of the America True vision. Under Dawn's direction, the syndicate operates True Youth, a program designed to take at-risk kids for a day of sailing and team building. All across the country, America True teaches kids about sailing, giving them an experience they can use to pursue any opportunity.

Dawn's book, Taking the Helm, written with Cynthia Flanagan Goss, now in its third printing, is the saga of the all-women crew in the 1993-94 Whitbread. Her advice to young women is "believe in yourself and don't accept any boundaries. If you can dream it, you can do it."

See press release of NASA's John H. Glenn Research Center at Lewis Field assistance to the America True team.


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