U.S. Sailing settles with Paul Cayard and America One, drops suit

SAN DIEGO -- U.S. Sailing has settled its federal lawsuit against veteran sailor and executive Paul Cayard and the America One Racing foundation, the sport's governing body announced on Wednesday.

Dropping the lawsuit removes a major distraction that had overshadowed the once-dominant American squad that has won just one medal in the last three Olympics.

The governing body, which had been criticized by medalists Anna Tobias and JJ Fetter for suing one of sailing's biggest financial supporters, didn't release specifics of the settlement.

America One Racing said in a statement that no money changed hands, both parties agreed to release all claims and established a mutual non-disparagement agreement.

Cayard, one of the United States' most successful sailors, resigned as executive director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in February 2023. He told The Associated Press then that he couldn't work under a restructuring that would have him focus on fundraising while someone else ran the team. When he left, many donors followed him or paused pledges to the national governing body.

America One Racing had been a partner and financial supporter of U.S. Sailing but switched its focus to directly supporting athletes. U.S. Sailing sued in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island on Jan. 16, seeking damages from America One Racing and its three principals, including Cayard.

In late February, Fetter, a two-time Olympic medalist, called for the resignations of U.S. Sailing's CEO, president and any other board member who supported the lawsuit.

Professional sailor and coach Tony Rey resigned from the board in the wake of the lawsuit, saying he was starting a new career opportunity within the sailing industry and that while he supported the litigation, "the controversy that continues to reverberate on the ground will not be helpful to my career."

Tobias, the last American to win an Olympic sailing gold medal, at the 2008 Beijing Games, emailed U.S. Sailing president Richard Jepsen and board members on April 24 asking them to drop the lawsuit. She called it "a frivolous and embarrassing side show for U.S. Sailing" and "a distraction from the goals."

"Let's broker peace and get the USA Olympic program back to a level where my name is in the history books and not the last USA sailing Gold Medal winner," her email concluded.

Tobias said she was so convinced that the U.S. team was on the right track under Cayard's leadership and America One's financial support that she gave up her job as coach for the ILCA 6 squad in the middle of the current quad and tried to make the team. Although she lost at the trials, she said she wouldn't have gotten to the starting line without America One's support.

"The leadership change was a shock to many athletes and the reasons for the organizational changes didn't ring true to many of us, however funding was a concern so many chose to walk the path without 'rocking the boat' as it were keeping a low profile during the resulting fallout," she wrote.

In an embarrassment on the English Channel in 2012, the United States failed to win an Olympic sailing medal for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Games. San Diego's Caleb Paine won a bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but the Americans were shut out again three summers ago in Tokyo and have been overtaken by Britain on the sailing medals table.

Some of the biggest names in sailing won Olympic medals for the United States. They include the late sailmaker Lowell North; the late Buddy Melges, who co-helmed the 1992 America's Cup winner with industrialist Bill Koch; sailmaker Mark Reynolds; and even Mr. America's Cup himself, Dennis Conner.