Sharon Green’s The Pursuit of “Ultimate Sailing”

Sharon Green - Two Bows

By Katherine Stone

An artist is able to visualize their thoughts and interpretations through their mind’s eye to produce objects of great beauty through their hands. Others visualize them through a lens to produce masterful photographs. This often requires great patience, a great deal of waiting, planning, and often frustration when the “shot” they wanted didn’t work out as they had anticipated. When we sit down to enjoy the Ultimate Sailing calendar every month, we don’t see this part of Sharon Green’s work. As she herself has said, ”My greatest satisfaction comes when it all connects – the anticipation, organization, high-powered yachts sailed by stellar crews, and epic conditions – and combines to create a thrilling photograph. The pursuit of ‘Ultimate Sailing’ never grows old. Three decades and I still love the challenge of creating memorable images for my clients and the calendar.”

Sharon started sailing with her dad, Don Green, when she was seven years old, on the family’s 21-foot Bluenose sloop. Later, when Don got a C&C 35, Sharon and her brother talked him into letting the junior sailors race it, and soon Don ended up with a very reliable and victorious young crew. 

She remembers well the thrill of photographing Evergreen – a radical, custom, 41-foot C&C he had commissioned – when they won the Canada’s Cup in 1978. But one of her most heartbreaking moments was when the mast came down during a race. It wasn’t the mast she was most concerned about, it was the fact that her camera (and in those days it was all film) wasn’t loaded and she missed the shot! She learned a lot after that, and having the camera loaded, no longer with film, but with the right lens is the key, along with trying to anticipate your shot.

As a teen, Sharon always seemed to have her camera with her and enjoyed taking pictures of boats, especially with their colourful spinnakers. When the Toronto Star actually offered her money for a picture she took of Evergreen, little did she realize it would set the wheels in motion for her career of snapping images that would capture the sport of sailing like we had never seen it before. 

Taking a film and photography program at Ryerson University in Toronto helped to hone her skills. But freelance pictures were often overlooked and soon became dated. Sharon didn’t want to be JUST a freelance photographer – she wanted more. When Sharon entered this field of capturing sailboat images on film, it was almost entirely occupied by men. Most of the boats were built and sailed by men. She lost out on big contracts because men didn’t think she knew enough about the sport to take the right pictures. Again, she knew that there had to be another way.

Sharon Green; Credit: Brad BrownOn a Utah ski trip (skiing was another of her passions), Sharon was soul-searching, when she came across a ski calendar. The thought dawned on her that a calendar would be up on someone’s wall ALL year, and then at the end of the year they would need a NEW calendar. As a freelance photographer she already had those 12 shots for the 12 months! That very first Ultimate Sailing calendar had a centrefold with a play-by-play knockdown of some poor soul’s boat and you guessed it, it was a hit! Although the world of sailing is continually changing, the saddle-stitched calendar has remained the same.  So, to help round out her skills, she knew that she needed to put more into her career toolbox. Enrolling at the University of Wisconsin at Madison she took courses in marketing and advertising at their business school. This put her on the course to start her own company, and Windward Productions Inc. was born. She was now in control of her own destiny, because her own pictures would be in the calendar. This accomplishment wasn’t unnoticed, as she received an honourary master’s degree from the well-respected Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California, where she now lives.

After 25 years of publishing only her own images in the calendar, Sharon started to branch out and added other photographers from around the globe. Art direction now became the focus of the calendar, to replace the coloured sails and hulls that were no longer found at regattas.

After photographing eight America’s Cups, the most recent of which featured catamaran ultra speed, her favourite remains the 1985 Challenge in Australia. It was new, exciting and fun. They were pioneers from the northern hemisphere finding out about weather, sailing conditions, and stealth equipment down south. It wasn’t professional – you sailed for your country. There was no advertising, the crew wasn’t paid a salary to take months off to train and go sailing. They did it for the pride of defending the Cup.

Although Sharon prefers to shoot images on the water, she fondly refers to herself as a “helicopter mom” because the best shots always seem to happen from the air. Her greatest fear is not dropping her camera in the water, but rather being at the windward mark with a hoard of 40-footers coming down on you when the engine of the powerboat you are on conks out!

Most recently, Sharon has approached and conquered her biggest undertaking yet. It took more than a year to go through over 30 years of archived film, slides, and digital images. The product involved more than 500,000 images on 244 pages covering 30 Years of Ultimate Sailing with ‘fresh to frightening’ images taken between 1979 and 2014. Her best shots and “aha moments” ever can be found in this amazing coffee table book, and patiently waiting until after the 2014 America’s Cup was sure worth it!

Heartbreak; By Sharon GreenGary Jobson packaged it perfectly for her when he said, “Every image by Sharon Green is a jewel. The combination of clarity and motion is magic. As you browse through this breathtaking book, you’ll be transported aboard every boat. Each time I turn the pages, I discover something new. 30 Years of Ultimate Sailing perfectly captures the high end of our sport during this innovative era.”

Being there, doing her research, asking coaches and weather experts, knowing currents, being patient, having the camera loaded, anticipating, and being at the right place at the right time have all played out well for Sharon Green. She is one of Canada’s best treasures who has used her artistic eye through a lens to capture what we all dream of doing.

30 Years of Ultimate Sailing can be purchased in Canada through the Nautical Mind bookstore for $69.95 

Find Sharon Green’s Ultimate Sailing Calendar on the CY Store


Photo Captions:

Photo 1 – Two bows, Kenwood Cup Hawaii.

Photo 2 – Sharon Green. Credit: Brad Brown.

Photo 3 – Heartbreak; Winsome Gold, 1979 Admiral’s Cup.

Evergreen; By Sharon Green Molokai Channel Hawaii; By Sharon Green Sharon Green; By Paul Todd Spinnaker and Blooper; By Sharon Green St Francis Big Boat series; By Sharon Green Helicopter; By Sharon Green

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