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Tony Rey resigns from U.S. Sailing board of directors, mentions effect of lawsuit controversy

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Professional sailor and coach Tony Rey has resigned from U.S. Sailing’s board of directors in the wake of a federal lawsuit filed by the national governing body filed against a foundation and three of its principals, including former Olympic team boss Paul Cayard.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of Rey's resignation, which he said was effective last Friday. That was three days after two-time Olympic medalist and National Sailing Hall of Famer JJ Fetter of San Diego called for the resignations of U.S. Sailing’s CEO, president and any other board member who supports the lawsuit that was filed Jan. 16 in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island.

With the United States in a prolonged Olympic medals slump, many in sailing felt the lawsuit distracted from the recent trials for the Paris Games and that U.S. Sailing should be spending money on sailors, not lawyers.

Rey wrote to the board that he is starting "on a new career opportunity within the sailing industry, and I need 100% of my non-family focus to be on my early success there. Additionally, while I support our current path of protecting our athletes and our organization with the pending litigation, the controversy that continues to reverberate on the ground will not be helpful to my career. It's important to me and my family that my work transition occur with as little distraction within our sport as possible.”

He added: “My apologies to the board if my departure causes any undue work in an already challenging environment.”

Contacted by email, Rey said: “My departure was in the works from a long way out, and I’m proud of the continued good work done by the team at US Sailing. It’s got nothing to do with lawyers, guns or money.” He did not respond to a follow-up email asking his stance on the lawsuit.

Rey has raced and coached at the highest levels, including in the America's Cup and Olympics.

Cayard, one of the United States’ most successful sailors, resigned as executive director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team a year ago. When he left, some big donors followed him or paused pledges to the national governing body. U.S. Sailing’s lawsuit seeks damages from One America Racing, which had been a partner and financial supporter but now focuses on directly supporting athletes.

In an embarrassment on the English Channel in 2012, the U.S. failed to win an Olympic medal for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Olympics. San Diego’s Caleb Paine won a bronze medal in Rio in 2016, but the Americans were shut out again in Tokyo and have been overtaken by Britain on the all-time sailing medals table.

Some of the biggest names in sailing won Olympic medals for the United States, including 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.

Fetter won a bronze medal in the Barcelona Games in 1992 and a silver in Sydney in 2000, both in the 470 class. She is a four-time U.S. Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year. She has had numerous roles with U.S. Sailing, including International Selection Committee chair for the last two quads before resigning in November. She also has been on the Olympic Sailing Committee and the board of directors.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/sports

Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press