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When professional sailor Geoffrey Michael Ewenson died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 50, his family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from thousands of grieving friends around the world.


It was testament to the profound impact Geoff had had on so many lives during his all-too-brief time on earth. He brought love, joy and passion to every endeavor he embraced and every person he encountered. A larger-than-life coach, mentor and companion extraordinaire, he devoted his life to helping others, whether on the water or in the community.


Geoff grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, one of the sailing meccas of the world. From a very young age, he made himself a regular presence on the docks, reveling in the excitement of major sailing events that made port in his hometown, such as the famous international match race, the America’s Cup. In fact, at the age of ten, Geoff was considered the unofficial mascot for the America’s Cup boat Freedom, captained by Olympic medalist, World Champion and three-time America’s Cup winner Dennis Conner.


Geoff sailed competitively throughout his school years, earning the Tabor Academy’s Braitmayer Award for his outstanding contribution to the sailing team, which won the High School Team Racing National Championship twice with him aboard.


While in college at the University of Rhode Island, he sailed to All American status twice. He went on to earn countless honors in both national and international races, including two second-place finishes in the U.S. Olympic Finn Trials and multiple top placings in trans-Atlantic races, world championships and other prestigious regattas.

Geoff met the love of his life, Mary Iliff, at a frostbite regatta in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1997. He soon relocated to Annapolis and married Mary two years later.


As his competitive career continued to skyrocket, his expertise expanded to include consulting for clients assembling crews, designing boats and developing racing programs. Geoff became an active and valued contributor to every aspect of the sport, helping to raise its safety and fairness standards while always striving to increase inclusivity.


As involved in the sailing world as Geoff was, it wasn’t what defined him. He was an excellent all-around athlete, often seen running in local and nationwide 3Ks, 5Ks and half-marathons. He regularly played in a local ice hockey league. An aficionado of a wide range of musical genres, he was also a talented guitar player.

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On an even broader scale, Geoff was consummately community-minded. He volunteered his time and talents to a number of organizations, including Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, the United States Naval Academy and Athletes Serving Athletes. He was just as passionate about helping disadvantaged and disabled people thrive in the world as he was about pursuing his own goals.


Geoff’s greatest joy was spending time with those he loved: driving his nieces and nephews to fits of laughter, delighting with Mary in the antics of their Labrador retrievers, Angus and Malcolm, sharing a meal into the wee hours with friends, or visiting his parents in Newport, playfully calling his father “Sport.”


It was the knowledge of his own great fortune in life that drove him to help so many others. That same knowledge, paired with our community’s intense gratitude for having been blessed by the influence of such a wonderful man, inspired the formation of EWE Spirit Foundation in Geoff’s memory.

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Photo: Al Schreitmueller

Photo: Dan Nerny

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