Eight Bells – Mary Savage

Mary SavageMary Savage of Larchmont, NY, a longtime US Sailing judge and umpire and a trailblazer among women race officials, died at home on December 13 surrounded by her family. 

Mary learned to sail in 1960 in a beginning sailing class for women at Larchmont Yacht Club, and five years later she was teaching the class. By 1979 she had won the Women’s Championship of Long Island Sound. She raced regularly for many years in several classes on the Sound, predominantly the 210. 

In 1979, less than a year after the program was created, Mary was one of the first women to become a US Sailing Judge. She was certified as an International Judge by ISAF (now World Sailing) in 1990. She officiated at events of all kinds, from youth regattas to world championships. She officiated regularly at Key West and Block Island Race Weeks, where she heard protests and made sure that the regatta documents were perfectly clear. 

In the 70s and 80s, she served on the Judges Committee Testing and Training Sub-Committee and as the Regional Administrative Judge for Area B and was an integral part of the group that developed formal judge training programs. When the Umpire Program began in 1990, Mary was one of the first two women to become US Sailing Certified Umpires. 

Mary served on the US Sailing Racing Rules Committee since 1991 – the first woman to do so. Her experiences as a competitor and judge and her skill with words made her a highly valued committee member. Her suggestions for rule changes exhibited an uncommon amount of common sense and a firm knowledge of the workings of the sport. In addition, Mary also chaired the US Sailing Race Administration Committee for several years and served as a Vice President of US Sailing. 

One of her most unique contributions to the sport was serving as the contact point for sailors for the US Sailing Competitor Classification Committee. Until ISAF took over the system, she made countless difficult and controversial decisions under intense time pressure so that hundreds of sailors could receive a classification just before the entry deadlines for events.  

In 2007 Mary was awarded the Harman Hawkins Trophy for her contributions to race administration, and in 2015 she received the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy, US Sailing’s most prestigious award, for her outstanding contributions to the sport. 

Through all these years, she worked quietly and effectively in the background with little publicity. This is a common trait of our best officials: they know that the game is not about them but about the competitors.