What it Means to Wear the Stars and Stripes, Representing Team USA Across the Decades

Pictured (left to right): Jody Starck and Cory Sertl at the Pan American Games Lima 2019

Recently, at the Pan American Games, US Sailing’s President, Cory Sertl (Rochester, N.Y.), joined Team USA at the sailing venue in Paracas, Peru. Cory is a decorated sailor in her own right and has even collected a few medals with one of our 2019 U.S. Pan Am Games Team athletes, Jody Starck (Buffalo, N.Y.). Jody and Cory are both winners of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award, the highest honor given to sailors in the United States, multiple times over. They have a long history sailing as a team and against one another. During the event, we took a few moments away from racing to catch up with Cory and Jody and hear about their history and experiences at the Lima 2019 Games.

US Sailing: Cory, tell us what you think of this year’s Pan American Games, so far.

Cory Sertl: It’s been great being with Team USA and seeing how hard everyone is working. Our whole team is really pleased to be here. It’s a real privilege to represent our country whether you’re an athlete, serving as president of US Sailing, or in other support roles.

Jody, what brought you and Cory together?

Jody Starck: Cory spends a lot of time trying to find targets to bring into the sport and guide them through their progression. She found me when I was just out of college and brought me into the 470 world. We ended up sailing together for two full Olympic campaigns. Over the years, we’ve sailed on lots of different boats together and apart, we have decades of history.

What was it like sailing together when you were campaigning?

Cory: Oh, Jody’s the best person to go sailing with. She always has an eye on the fun part of the sport and keeping it light. I have to say; I learned a tremendous amount about sailing and how to approach the sport with Jody. She has such a fresh attitude towards it. She’s always about doing the right thing but also would focus on what we would learn, what we were going to do next, and always taking advantage of the privilege we had being out on the water together. I remember being out on the water in Miami and just looking around and saying wow we could be working right now. That’s something that I like to say to all of our current athletes, it’s a real privilege to be able to represent Team USA and be out sailing every day. It’s an incredible opportunity to do that.

Jody: Well it’s really neat that at our age we can still be doing that! But that’s what our sport is about, lifelong participation.

Both of you also have really strong family connections in your sailing. Jody, you sail with your two young kids, Jamie and Sabrina, and Cory, you have been sailing in the New York Yacht Club IC37 program with your family. I know that means a lot to you guys, what’s it like sharing the sport with your families?

Cory: Well to me, as my kids have gotten a little older, post-college sailing, you really want to spend time with your family and it’s kind of hard to do that when the kids go their separate ways onto careers that they’re starting. This summer, our goal was to try to sail with our family and were able to do that with the New York Yacht Club IC37 that we chartered as a family. It’s a pretty big challenge for us, with a pretty steep learning curve on how to sail the boats, but we had just a tremendous June and July sailing with our family and friends. One of the things that I view of as one of the successes in my life is that my kids love the sport as much as I do and that they enjoy it for the same reasons that I do.

Jody, isn’t Sabrina doing some lightning sailing of her own?

Jody: Yes! She’s 13, she steers and has two of her cousins sailing with her. Jamie (her sister) also frequently sails with her. But it’s as Cory said, there aren’t many sports that you can do with your whole family. I can still go out with my mom. We can go out and be slightly competitive, or just enjoy the time on the water together. It’s a lot of work sailing with your kids, there’s no question about that, but that’s all we know. I grew up sailing with my family. It’s great that our sport allows that.

Sailing with close friends is also something that’s pretty special. Jody, how many regattas have you sailed with Ian [Jones] and Skip [Dieball] by now?

Jody: I have no idea. We definitely do it for the fun of it. We have a lot of laughter and horsing around on our boat. It just works for us. That’s really, at this stage of the game, why we’re out there.

You two also have a long history sailing together. You sailed the Goodwill Games together and won a Gold Medal. Jody, you’ve won two Pan Am Games Silver Medals, one in a 470 and one in the Lightning. Tell us a little about that.

Cory: The Goodwill Games were back in 1990, I believe. Jody and I had just teamed up in the 470 and we were fortunate enough to win the Gold Medal. And that was a pretty special experience. Any time you can represent your country, especially when you can be on the top of the podium and hear our national anthem, it’s a pretty amazing feeling. I’ve been really lucky in my life to have represented the U.S. on many occasions, as an athlete and supporting our sailors. I’m really proud to be here in Paracas with the Pan Am Team and to support them and cheer them on.

Jody: It’s just such a big honor to be part of the U.S. contingent. It doesn’t really matter if you’re on the official Team USA if you’re traveling to another country, if you’re competing at a multi-sport event like this, it’s just a really neat thing to be a part of a team and to be cheering fellow athletes on. Having them support you and getting to meet the athletes in the other classes and sports is why I keep coming back to these kinds of events. It’s just a great opportunity to go represent the United States.

It’s neat that you’re competing alongside our aspiring U.S. Olympians on the US Sailing Team too. What do you think about that?

Jody: It’s fun to get to know them. I don’t know the boats, so it’s neat to see them out on the racecourse and get an up-close look at what they’re doing. We’re always reading their names at home, but it’s rare that you get a chance to meet them for an extended period of time. So this event has been a great opportunity to get to know the US Sailing Team in today’s world.

Cory: It’s also great to have the unique opportunity for this level of interaction between Olympic and non-Olympic classes. I think we can all learn from each other. As I said earlier, sailing is a lifetime sport. At this event, we have people on both ends of the age spectrum, among our coaches, support staff, and our competitors. It’s just great to see everyone learning from each other.

So what would you tell our sailing community, members of US Sailing or other fans watching the event from afar about what they can do to help our team and our program to contribute to building the support and passion for Olympic racing in the U.S.?

Cory: Well I think it’s really important that everyone realizes that, while there’s a couple of us who’ve been privileged to represent the U.S. at the top levels of the sport, we represent all of the USA and our sailing community. We represent what’s really special about coming from the United States, which is striving for excellence in whatever we do. I think that’s something that we can all get behind, just trying to do our best at what we do. It’s awesome to be a part of a community of people who are all trying to master something and just be the best they can be. The US Sailing Team is filled with great people. We really need to get behind that group because they are an example of everything we do in the sport.