Sailing ace JJ Fetter has the eye of the wind as she now helms special events


JJ Fetter is a native La Jollan who attended La Jolla Elementary and Bishop’s schools. She started sailing at age 7 in the junior program at the San Diego Yacht Club. Since then, JJ has won three world championships and is the only American female to have won two Olympic medals in sailing (Bronze in ’92 and Silver in ‘00).

JJ has been named Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year four times, and last year she was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the San Diego Hall of Champions. In 1995, she was the tactician and starting helmsman for the America3 Women’s America’s Cup team.

Nowadays, JJ is the event coordinator for SEA SD (Sailing Events Association San Diego) whose mission is to bring high-profile sailing events to town for the benefit of the local economy. SEA SD is the local organizing committee for the America’s Cup World Series currently in downtown San Diego, through Nov. 20.

For more information on the races, go to

What brought you to La Jolla?

My parents, Tom and Jane Fetter, or I guess, technically, my mom’s obstetrician because I was born at Scripps. I’ve lived in La Jolla my entire life except for four years back at Yale and then several six-month stints in various parts of the world for the America’s Cup races — Perth, Australia in 1986-’87 and Auckland, New Zealand in 2000 and 2003.

What makes this area special to you?

I think La Jolla is one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Thanks to all the sailboat racing I’ve done around the world, I’ve had a chance to sail in gorgeous places like Portofino, St. Tropez, Buzios, Sydney, Auckland — and I’m never disappointed by my hometown when I get back.

What might you improve in the area?

I’d love to add sidewalks on all the streets — especially on the narrow, curvy streets up in the hills — so I could go for a walk without worrying about getting run over. Also, I’d replace several blocks (ideally one with a big high-rise) with a large park that included an area for dogs. I think that would be nice. And I wish Bennett’s Nursery was still here or that Ace Hardware (my favorite store in La Jolla) was bigger and carried garden plants.

Who or what inspires you?

I seem to be most inspired these days by deadlines.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

Could I have several private dinners with just one or two guests instead? Because I’d really like to talk with my great aunts, Lydia and Dodie, who were the first of my family to move to La Jolla in the 1930s. And I know it’s a cliché, but it would be really interesting to get the straight scoop from Jesus.

The others on my list (in no particular order) would be Cleopatra, a Mayan high priest, Benjamin Franklin, Hillary Clinton and the Dalai Lama. It’s tempting to substitute George Clooney, Daniel Craig or Bradley Cooper, but it’s not worth the chance that they would be disappointing.

What are your five favorite movies of all time?

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” “The Princess Bride,” “Toy Story,” “The Hangover,” and the PG parts of almost all of Will Ferrell’s movies, except “Land of the Lost,” and the last couple ones.

What is your most-prized possession?

That would be the Cal 48 sailboat that has been in my family since I was 12. My daughters and I spend as much time as possible on it in the summers and have a great family trip to Catalina every August.

What do you do for fun?

I’m a single mom and I’ve been working so hard lately on two big projects (bringing these America’s Cup World Series races to San Diego this week, and on a cool sailing exhibit that’s going to open at the Hall of Champions in 2012) that the most fun I have is finding time to walk my dog. I wish I had more time to sleep. Or to go sailing on my foiling moth dinghy, but that takes a solid day.

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

My two wonderful daughters, another cliché I know, but there’s nothing more amazing than being a parent.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

“Every path has its puddle,” but hopefully it’s small and you can jump over it or just put on rain boots and splash on through it.