Pick up any yachting magazine, and you’ll likely see photos taken by Santa Barbara resident Sharon Green. A veteran of eight America’s Cups and some of the most prestigious yacht races around the world, Green has become an icon of yacht racing photography.
Originally from Toronto, Green was convinced she was going to be the next Ansel Adams. “My father gave me one of my grandfather’s old cameras and built me a darkroom,” she said. “I wasn’t a very good photographer by any means, but I just loved printing.”
As a junior sailor, Green convinced her father to race his C&C 38 — a sailboat she describes as a “clunker” — with her on Lake Ontario, and their crew won their local yacht club’s races that summer. Her father, bitten by the racing bug, decided to build a new boat and challenge for the Canada’s Cup, a famous match race pitting a Canadian crew against an American team.
“They launched in freezing, sleet/snow conditions in November,” Green remembered. “I followed along, taking pictures. It was cold and wet, but to me it was easy.” The 1978 race between Canada’s Evergreen and the United States’ Agape went down as one the great Canada’s Cup contests, with Evergreen emerging victorious.
“People from all over Canada would call the house asking for photos of the boat,” Green went on. “I got a call from the Toronto Star wanting a photo for their first-ever color front page, and they sent me a check for $375. I was 17. I thought I’d made it.” Years later, while at college in Wisconsin, a friend suggested Green make a calendar with her images, and in 1983 she launched her first Ultimate Sailing calendar. At its peak, she was printing more than 40,000 copies every year.
Green was awarded an honorary master’s degree from the Brooks Institute and continues to photograph yacht races all over the world. She’s happiest up in a helicopter, hanging out the door and shooting in her favorite conditions — “fresh and frightening.” See more of her work at ultimatesailing.com.