Steve Uhl of Fleet 5
By Fred Brehob
So you’re wondering how that mild mannered guy with the winning smile plopped down in our midst and immediately began jumping over the competitive buildings with a single bound. Well friends, Fleet Five members and others, your days of wondering are over. Now it can be told. Fleet Five Captain Steve Uhl has an immense sailing pedigree.
His dad, Bill Uhl, with Steve’s mom as crew, cut a swath in the Lightning Class during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. The highlight of their competitions was a second place at the International Lightning Class Worlds in 1958. Steve was born in 1962 when they were still tearing up the waters of Great Peconic Bay, so there is little doubt that his introduction to the sport was in utero. This is certainly a more comfortable and safe platform than an Opti.
We don’t want to trigger an investigation, but the word is that after Steve’s 1962 launching, mom and dad would solve the late or missing third crew problem by strapping in their prize forward of the centerboard trunk where he got his introduction to sail trim, and weaned himself on belaying pins used to secure the Lightning’s halyards. Steve’s earliest memories are of trailing the boat to various regattas around the country to places like Milwaukee, Schenectady, Red Bank, Quantico, Buffalo, etc. from their Port Washington, New York home.
Upon reaching the ripe old age of nine, he found himself in a more formal setting, the junior sailing program at the Cold Springs Harbor Beach Club on Long Island. There, he began his formal training in Blue Jays. At eleven, he won the last Long Island Sound Novice Open Championship in this boat. Subsequently, he moved up to Lasers. If all of the preceding weren’t enough, his sailing touch was further polished when he began flying lessons in 1980. This second hobby continues to the present out of Beverly Airport.
At college decision time, there was only one choice, MIT. The academics in Aeronautics and Astronautics were his prime interest, but the real clincher was the sailing program under the inspirational leadership of Hatch Brown. It was great fun to finish classes each weekday at four and then beat it down to the Institute’s Charles River boathouse for two and a half hours of intense sailing competition.
Steve’s parents moved to New Hampshire. There, he spent a summer as a sailing coach at Sunapee Yacht Club. After graduating from MIT, he accepted a position with Pratt and Whitney at Hartford, Connecticut where he enjoyed frostbiting in Lasers and a brief stint distance racing. In 1987, he enrolled at Dartmouth’s Amos Tuck business school and after graduating, moved to San Francisco. While establishing himself in consulting work, he let sailing slide.
A 1992 opportunity to move back east with his company was a godsend with Marblehead as a magnet. There he met wife Jennifer, a non-sailing college dance professor. Their romance survived a January Interclub Dinghy dunking at Essex, Connecticut and they became parents to two delightful sons,Thornton and Clark who at 7 and 6 are continuing the Uhl sailing tradition by crewing.
Steve’s interest in the Rhodes 19 as an affordable, more forgiving, family friendly Marblehead class with an active racing fleet blossomed in 1999. And thanks to Bill and Kera Dalton and Kim Pandapas he found the good ship Woodstock. In addition to his challenging Fleet 5 Captain’s duties of finding and welcoming new members, he is chairing the 2003 National Regatta Committee.
For those keeping score, he has endured a 29 year regatta championship drought. So look out for him in August if the rest of the committee can shoulder enough of the Regatta planning load to allow him to think a little about the actual competition.