March 14, 2011

Stan Honey ‘78 Named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year

Alum Leads the Way on the Water and in Modern Technology

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—On Feb. 25 US SAILING, the governing body for the sport of sailing in the United States, presented one of the sport's highest individual honors to a Yale alum whose influence reaches farther than the seven seas.  Stan Honey '78 was named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for his success as navigator aboard a 32-meter-long trimaran that set the world record for fastest circumnavigation of the globe in March 2010.

The prize for setting this specific record is appropriately named the Jules Verne Trophy, in honor of the author of the novel Around the World in 80 Days.  However, the feat accomplished by the characters in the novel seems insignificant in comparison to how fast Honey's boat, the "Groupama 3", was able to complete its non-stop journey around the world.  The record is now set at 49 days, seven hours and 44 minutes.  That is more than 56 hours faster than the previous record which was set in 2005. 

As one would expect, this was not Honey's first time "around the block".   In addition to numerous other impressive feats, Honey previously served as navigator of the winning boat of the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race.  The Volvo Ocean Race consists of seven legs that, in total, take competitors on a full circumnavigation of the globe.  Leading the ABN AMRO team to overall victory in this event also earned him a nomination for the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Award in 2006. In addition, in 2009 Honey helped to set the record in the Transpacific Race from Los Angeles, Calif. to Honolulu, Hawaii.  However, not only was he able to do this on a major racing yacht (the "Alfa Romeo") with full crew, but in 1992 Honey also set the record in the "Transpac" for fastest finish by a boat sailed singlehandedly.  Needless to say, Honey knows how to get a sailboat from point A to point B, fast. 

By no means is that a simple task.  Just the first of the navigator's responsibilities is to anticipate the weather in order to set a course that optimally balances finding the best wind with sailing the least possible distance.  Simultaneously, a navigator must consider the extremity of conditions that his or her boat can actually withstand.  When sailing offshore, there are some storms that summon winds of speeds more than 100 miles-per-hour and waves that get taller than city buildings.  Getting caught in conditions of this nature would seriously jeopardize the safety of the crew and could easily bring a boat's voyage to an abrupt end.  Clearly there's a fair bit riding on the decisions of the navigator.

Thus, if you are a competitive offshore racing team looking to face the challenges of the sea, there is probably no one you would rather have calling the shots on your boat than Stan Honey.  His sailing accomplishments are not the only things attesting to this either.  In a job like navigating which requires tons of problem-solving, accounting for a great number of variables and measuring factors as seemingly arbitrary as the weather, technology is a man's best friend.  Conveniently, Honey is as much of a leader in the field of practical electronics as he is on the boat.  After graduating from Yale in 1978 with a bachelor's of science in engineering and applied science, he went on to acquire his master's degree in electrical engineering at Stanford.  These studies were subsequently put to direct use when Honey founded the digital mapping and vehicle navigation company ETAK in 1983.  He also now serves on the board of directors for KVH, a manufacturer of satellite communications and navigation sensors.  It is safe to say that if anyone has the intelligence and resources to guide a boat around the world in a timely fashion it is Stan Honey.

His entrepreneurial career only begins with that first company though.  Since Honey's involvement with ETAK, the Yale alum has made some game-changing contributions to the sports technology industry in particular.  In 1998 he co-founded SportVision, Inc., "the premiere, global provider of data content and enhancements for sports broadcasts and applications".  If you are familiar with the yellow first-down line that appears in football games on TV, you will be intrigued to learn that that is Stan Honey's technology.  Furthermore, Honey was also instrumental in developing the technology for sports television applications such as: the K-Zone system that identifies the baseball strike zone, the FoxTrax system for making hockey pucks glow and the technology that provides NASCAR fans with live on-track and in-car footage.  Anyone who has watched ESPN before can attest that none of these are trivial inventions. 

It is evident that Stan Honey's days as a student-athlete at Yale have transformed into a well-balanced professional life.  The new Rolex on his wrist represents the sailing side while his 29 patents represent the engineering side, but by no means are the two mutually exclusive.  His ability to effectively blend the skills he learned in school with his passion for sailing is inspirational to anyone who has ever dreamt of their career coexisting perfectly with their favorite pastime.  When asked directly how Yale prepared him for his future, Honey stated that "it both gave [him] the confidence to dig into problems that [he] wasn't sure were solvable, as well as the ability to speak and write clearly about the problems and the importance of solving them".  

Yale Sailing is proud to acknowledge Honey as part of its alumni family and is grateful for all that he does in terms of giving back to the team that helped get him to the level of the sport that he is at today.         

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity

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