Legendary Sailor Triumphs Over Personal Storm

In a sailing career spanning four decades, Gary Jobson has braved howling gales and crashing waves in his pursuit of the world's top sailing prizes. He always perseveres and, more often than not, he reaches his goal.


By 2003, Jobson was riding high: a victorious America's Cup tactician, an ESPN yachting commentator and the successful national chair of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's popular Leukemia Cup Regatta series, which raises funds to find cures for blood cancers. He helped develop the local, Annapolis, MD event into a national Regatta campaign that has raised more than $20 million for the Society's mission.

And then one day Jobson's life changed. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was seriously wrong with his body. Doctors were worried. Soon, hospital tests confirmed that Jobson had non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a life-threatening cancer of the lymphatic system. "I couldn't believe it," Jobson said. "Here I was, national chairman of a campaign to help blood cancer patients, and I am diagnosed with the disease. It was very ironic to say the least."

Jobson underwent treatment immediately. "The first round of chemo went pretty well, and I thought I was OK," he later told an interviewer for Cruising World magazine. "Well . . . (months later) they found my tumor had doubled in size. I wasn't prepared for getting sick again. I'd done everything. And here it is coming back, worse and harder."

In October 2003, Jobson underwent a second round of high-dose chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant, one of medicine's most demanding procedures. "It was by far the hardest thing I have ever endured in my life." Jobson said. "Lymphoma is a very hard disease to come back from; not everyone does. The whole experience is very humbling."

The transplant worked. Nearly four years later, Jobson is doing fine. He's back to his old, exhausting schedule of speaking tours, television appearances and other activities to promote the sport of sailing and help the Society cure the disease that almost took his life.

One of his most recent projects is helping launch the Society's new virtual Regatta, taking place right now. Virtual Regatta lets sailing enthusiasts raise funds online for cancer cures when it's not outdoor sailing weather. Participants can earn great incentives, such as a hand-held GPS, a digital camera and a signed, limited edition Mount Gay Rum hat.

"I've always been a supporter of the Society's mission," Jobson said. "But since my illness, I now know first-hand what the 786,000 Americans who are battling blood cancer are really going through. I am even more dedicated to help, and I urge sailors to join me."

To find out more about virtual Regatta, click here.

By Peter West

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