Hilary and Anthony Kotoun may be the “sailing-est” couple in Newport, Rhode Island. Hilary is the Communications and Programs Manager at Sailors for the Sea, an international organization that educates and engages the boating community in the worldwide protection of the oceans. Anthony is a professional captain and sailor whose CV includes victories in the J/24 World Championship, Melges 32 World Championship, and Moth National and North American Championships. He’s also an Ambassador for 11th Hour Racing, whose mission is to improve the energy profile and performance of racing boats and increase the personal investment of sailors in the health of our waters.
“I grew up a bit of all over,” Hilary recalls. “I started sailing in 6th grade, when my parents moved me and my two siblings onto a sailboat for a cruise to the Caribbean. I used the head our first night out and saw shooting lights in the toilet. I couldn’t believe it. Our engine and generator had already broken and my dad and the captain were running around trying to fix everything, so I didn’t say anything about the broken toilet! Later that night, we saw phosphorescence behind the boat and I realized the toilet wasn’t broken and I’d found a new organism to learn about. We lived in the Caribbean for two and a half years, then moved back to Annapolis where I started racing at Annapolis High School and Annapolis Yacht Club. My mentors were Lori Plumb, a high school coach who made being a chick racer a little less daunting, and Adam Werblow at St. Mary’s…we won the Team Race Nationals twice. I’ve done team racing since college with the Woonsocket Rockets.”
“I was born in Arkansas and grew up in the Virgin Islands,” says Anthony. “My mom married a guy who had always wanted to live in the Virgin Islands. He had a powerboat, so we went down the Arkansas River and Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, through Florida and the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands. That was when I was in 3rd and 4th grade. I was home schooled, and I had a little Dyer sailing dinghy. The famous sailor from St. Thomas is Peter Holmberg, and he took me under his wing when he was doing his Olympic campaign in ’88. Later, I came up to Newport in the summertime to check out what it was all about. I raced college dinghies at St. Mary’s, and was a two-time All-American. Hilary and I both went to St. Mary’s, but not at the same time. I moved to Newport after graduation, and we met when she was an instructor at Sail Newport.”
“I help with the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regattas program, which is a certification program that helps regattas reduce their environmental impact,” says Hilary. “I’ve helped implement Clean Regatta practices at events including the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and the America’s Cup, where my co-worker Annie Brett was the project leader. The organizers did a great job expanding their Clean Regattas program, and they achieved Sailors for the Sea Platinum level certification by implementing 84 points to reduce their environmental impact. Seeing their efforts was incredibly impressive, and it was fun to watch the racing and the crowds that were excited to see it.”
“Sailors for the Sea also partners with The Atlantic Cup presented by 11th Hour Racing,” Hilary continues. “The organizers, Julianna Barbieri and Hugh Piggin at Manuka Sports Event Management, do an amazing job! They have a great campaign to get more racers using hydrogenerators on their boats, and they’re introducing lots of sailors to sustainability. They’re engaging the public, both online and in the host cities, where people can come by to meet the racers and see their boats. I also focus a lot of my time on our social media outreach, communications, newsletter and website, and I manage our Ocean Watch Essays program. These are written to help people understand ocean health issues including problems that marine mammals are facing, plastic debris, and bioaccumulation, which is how toxins get into the food stream.”
“Ninety percent of what I do is just go sailing, and I’m the East Coast dealer for Mach2 Foiling Moths, Melges Performance Sailboats, and North Sails,” says Anthony. “The most economical way to go foiling is to get a Moth and go for a rip, and we’ve been selling a lot of boats since the America’s Cup went foiling. The Moth is a different breed. You’re doing 17 to 25 knots when you’re foiling and closing speeds can be 40 to 50, so you gotta learn to get a read on the other boat. We have a really good group of guys here in the States including Bora Gulari, Brad Funk and Bear Peet. We spend a lot of time sailing together and we’ve gotten a lot better.”
An active member of Newport’s Marstrom 32 catamaran fleet, Anthony has held the Mount Gay Rum Around Jamestown Record for the fastest circumnavigation of Conanicut Island. “I’m extremely lucky to be friends with Michael Dominguez, who owns Bronco, and Tommy Loughborough. A lot of Newporters think the Mount Gay Rum Around Jamestown Record has one of the greatest racecourses there is, and we held the record for about three weeks. There are fleets of Moths, Marstroms and F-18 catamarans at Sail Newport, and we’ll be the ‘warm-up band’ at the Volvo Ocean Race stopover.”
Hilary and Anthony, pictured on their honeymoon in Hawaii last fall, also enjoy cruising. “Our first vacation together was a cruise and we’ve done another three or four together,” he says. Regarding future boat ownership, he notes, “Small trimarans like the F-27 have sparked my interest…but we’re accepting donations for our Gunboat fund!”