US Sailing is deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Leighton, 77, a sailing industry leader, contributor, and life-long sailor. Leighton served as the Executive Director of US Sailing from January, 2005 through October, 2010, and had a far-reaching impact on its members, staff and volunteers.
Leighton's successful six-year stint as Executive Director was spirited by his ability to recruit and develop a skilled and competent management staff. His strong business background was a key to the organization achieving and sustaining financial stability. Charlie's leadership style was to lead by example and he set the bar high.
Tom Hubbell, President, US Sailing: "When Charlie came on board as Executive Director, the board and staff were thrilled that we could work with a person of this depth of business experience and gift of interpersonal skills. And Charlie exceeded even those expectations. He radiated a positive attitude. He believed that bringing in very good people would produce very good results. US Sailing grew stronger and happier under his leadership."
Gary Jobson, Past President, US Sailing: “Charlie Leighton was an inspiration to me, and a giant in the world of sailing. He was very passionate about racing and helping young people reach their dreams. Charlie's enthusiasm was infectious. He was a leader and always seemed to be enjoying life. It was an honor to be Charlie's friend. He will be missed, but leaves an enduring legacy.”
Jack Gierhart, Executive Director, US Sailing: "Charlie had a profound impact on US Sailing and all of us on the staff and in the volunteer ranks, successfully positioning the organization to grow and lead the sport of sailing into the future. He was an incredible mentor and leader to all of us, providing thoughtful guidance and encouragement, while challenging each of us to achieve things beyond our comfort zone. Charlie was the role model for how to work with others to create win-win situations. We all feel extremely lucky to have known and worked with him. Thank you Charlie, we'll miss you."
Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing: “Charlie had a tremendous impact on U.S. Olympic Sailing. He created the Medalist major gift program that directly benefits Olympic and Paralympic sailors. Charlie was more than a fundraiser; he was a passionate friend to the Teams and he will be deeply missed.”
Leighton graduated from Bowdoin College in 1957, and started the school’s first sailing team. He later graduated from the Harvard Business School where he was a member of the faculty and later president of the alumni council. He competed in numerous adult National Championships and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, as well as the U.S. Junior Triplehanded Championship (Sears Cup). He was chairman of an America’s Cup syndicate and is a winner of numerous offshore races, including the Marblehead-Halifax race. He also served as Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, and remained an active sailor by racing and cruising his 42-foot Hinckley, Whitecap.
Leighton had an extensive career in business and finance:
-Chairman and CEO of the CML Group Inc., a NYSE listed company
-Director at MetLife
-President of the Harvard Business School Alumni Council
-Trustee of the Lahey Clinic
Following his retirement from US Sailing in 2010, read what a few of Charlie’s closest friends and colleagues had to say about their experiences with him.
Memorial gifts may be made to Sail to Prevail, P.O. Box 1264, Newport RI 02840 or www.sailtoprevail.org. A memorial celebration of his life will be held in Newport this spring.
Photo top credit Rob Bergh; center: US Sailng's Past President Gary Jobson with Charlie Leighton, 2012. Photo credit Mick Anderson/US Sailing