Sailing brought Jan & Jonathan Harley together, and they’re among the nicest folks we know.

“I grew up just north of New York City and moved to Rhode Island in 1980,” Jan recalls. “I started at the U.S. Yacht Racing Union (now US Sailing) that year as assistant to the executive director. While I probably got the job because I had strong administrative skills, I’ve always joked that Karen Vinbury hired me because I lived on Windward Drive, as I’d only been sailing once on a friend’s Sunfish on a lake in upstate New York! Jonathan and I met as colleagues at USYRU, but I didn’t get on the water much until we bought half of an Interclub and sailed the frostbite series. Around that time, we were regular weeknight racers on our friend Paul Fleming’s J/35 Hot Entrée, with a factory crew that included Kenny and Brad Read among others…my only claim to sailing fame was earned when we won the 1986 J/35 North Americans.”

“I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and spent every summer in West Falmouth, Massachusetts,” says Jonathan. “I started sailing at age 5 with my grandfather, James R. Moore, in his Beetlecat Peon. Jimmy was an excellent sailor, and our club champion at Chapoquoit Yacht Club. When I was 10, we were close to winning a race against Falmouth Yacht Club when a Beetlecat near us capsized. Jimmy stopped racing and stood up, waving to get the attention of a support boat. I couldn’t understand why he gave up the chance to win until afterwards, when he explained good sportsmanship. It’s just what you do in sailing.”

 

Jan is the Senior Account Manager/Operations Manager at Media Pro International, a Newport-based public relations agency for luxury brands and lifestyle sports with an emphasis on sailing, megayachts and motorsports. “I had worked with Media Pro founder Barby MacGowan at USYRU, and she hired me to help set up her office systems. Writing press releases came about gradually, and I have to thank Mimi Dyer, another USYRU alum, for a long-ago compliment that gave me a boost in confidence in my writing/communication skills. We’d been working with Rolex Watch USA for 15+ years providing PR support for their sailing events when they asked us to do PR for motorsports events. I went to my first Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in 2010 fully expecting that I would hate everything, while worrying about how to cover the racing! It turned out to be one of my favorite events ever.”

“This summer Media Pro will continue its PR efforts for (among others) the Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry, the Newport Charter Yacht Show, Edgartown Yacht Club’s Race Weekend, Bell’s Beer Bayview Mackinac Race and the 12 Metre Class, which has its World Championship in Newport in July. Coming up with something to catch a reader’s attention has always been my favorite challenge, but collaborating on an event as part of the PR team is the best part of my job.”

“I was a member of the University of Rhode Island Sailing Team, and captain my senior year,” says Jonathan. “We were National Champions in 1965. I sailed a Finn, hoping to try out for the Olympics, until I blew my knee out one day while training. Later I sailed Lasers extensively and was one of the first Masters Champions.”

In 1972, Jonathan helped his friends Phyllis & David Biddle and their five children sail their 50-foot ketch Diogenes to Tahiti and back, returning to New Bedford Yacht Club a year and a day later. “I was Waterfront Director at Mystic Seaport before becoming One-Design Director at USYRU in 1980. I became Olympic Director in 1982 leading into the ‘84 Olympics in Los Angeles. During my tenure, I attended six Olympics and U.S. sailors won 29 medals (seven gold, fifteen silver and seven bronze). We won nine medals at the ‘92 Games in Barcelona, and all but one member of our team won a medal. I marched with them in the parade of athletes for Opening Ceremonies, and coming into the stadium to thunderous cheering was a very special moment.”

Jonathan’s also lent his expertise to the sailing teams at Providence College and Portsmouth Abbey. “Coaching at Providence was a great experience because it’s a club sport and the sailors were very dedicated. I had several very talented sailors and we qualified for the New Englands twice. I inherited a great team at Portsmouth Abbey, and in my first two years we qualified for the Interscholastic Sailing Association Fleet Racing and Team Racing Nationals, and two sailors qualified for the Singlehanded Nationals. In 2016, we won the New England Schools Sailing Association Women’s Championship for the Rebecca Herreshoff Trophy.”

Jan & Jonathan have homes in Middletown, Rhode Island and West Falmouth, Massachusetts. “We have a Sunfish that hasn’t been in the water for several years,” she chuckles, “but we’re lucky to have great friends with whom we regularly enjoy sailing on Buzzards Bay. Life is always more interesting when you are surrounded with people who are passionate about something. We’ve had opportunities to travel, participate in extraordinary events and build friendships that revolve around our love of being on, in or near the water…and it all started with sailing!” ■

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