Terry Kohler, a renowned businessman and passionate sailor, passed away Tuesday at the age of 82.
In 2009, Kohler received the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy, US Sailing’s highest honor, for his outstanding contributions to the sport of sailing in the U.S.
Kohler was a longtime contributor to the U.S. Olympic Sailing Program, including the US Sailing Team’s Rio 2016 effort. He also believed in the importance of developing the next generation of Olympians. In 2014, Kohler became a founding supporter of Project Pipeline, a long-term, comprehensive high performance youth sailing program with the goal of developing highly trained and experienced young competitors with the skills to compete successfully in the international sailing arena, and ultimately the Olympics.
Kohler was active in the Women’s International Match Racing Association. He played in intricate role in a successful international campaign for women’s match racing to be selected as a sailing event at the 2012 Olympic Games. Kohler was a major supporter of the Sheboygan Youth Sailing Center in Wisconsin and provided organizational leadership to Sail Sheboygan.
Kohler was committed to improving the accuracy of offshore rating rules and fairness of offshore racing. He was a strong believer in the use of science to handicap sailboat racing. He funded research and testing for the development and improvement of these rating rules.
“Terry Kohler was an inspirational pioneer for the sport of sailing in many ways,” said Bruce Burton, President of US Sailing. “He was passionate about innovation, about the purity and integrity of the sport, and about providing opportunities for others to experience and enjoy the sport as much as he did. Terry was a very generous person who had a major impact on the sport. He will be greatly missed and his impact and legacy will live on and benefit the sport for years to come.”
At the age of five, Kohler picked up sailing on Lake Michigan and was sailing and racing for over 65 years. He was Commodore of the Lake Michigan Sail Racing Federation. His racing accomplishments are extensive. In 1978, he successfully defended the Canada’s Cup for the U.S. He has competed in 36 Chicago-Mackinac and 17 Bayview-Mackinac Races. In 1984 and 1985, his crew was first in section in the Chicago Mackinac, and in 1992 his crew achieved a first to finish, first in class, and first in fleet. In 2008 at the 100th Chicago Mackinac Regatta, his crew finished second. Kohler was a member of six yacht clubs, and the founding member of the Great Lakes 70 Association and the Sail Yacht Research Foundation.
Kohler had a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s School of Management. He was also a graduate of the Admiral Farragut Academy of New Jersey. He later joined the U.S. Air Force and spent three years as a combat crew member pilot.
Kohler served as President and CEO of the Windway Capital Corporation, a holding company for subsidiaries including North Sails Group. Under Kohler’s leadership, North Sails became a world leader in sailmaking through an ongoing commitment to designing and producing faster, lighter, and stronger sails.
He is survived by his wife Mary Kohler; three daughters, Leslie, Michelle and Danielle Kohler; four step-children, Charlie, Doug and Chris Ferrell, and Joseph Simpson; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.