Tom Madden lived the first 54 years of his life without ever having set foot on a sailboat.
But that didn't stop the retired 59-year-old Ingram Micro chief financial officer and longtime Newport Beach resident from taking Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club's top post Sunday, when he officially became the club's 2013 commodore.
After joining BCYC in 2008 "to become a better sailor," Madden was enlisted as the 54-year-old club's treasurer. Then, for the following three years, the Pittsburgh native rose through the club's ranks to serve as secretary, rear commodore and vice commodore before assuming the role of commodore, as is standard.
But, from the get-go, Madden's "aura" jibed well, said club member Bill Long.
"I knew someday he'd be the commodore," he said.
Club officials say Madden's business savvy and ease of making connections — not to mention the fact that he was a quick study as a sailor — make him a good fit for the job.
"He has a great business background, he knows how to interact with people, and he knows how to approach difficulties in a very mild manner," said Staff Commodore Mary Bacon, who served as commodore in 1999. "And he likes to have a drink with everybody at the bar. Nobody's a stranger to him. He's one of those kinds of people who knows how to reach out."
That will be important, Bacon said, as she and Madden work together to plan the club's biggest event in the upcoming year: the U.S. Junior Women's Doublehanded Championship in late June.
The event, which Bacon described as a sort of summer camp for 80 of the country's best young female sailors, has been in the works since January. Bacon is the event chairwoman.
"[Madden] asked me [to do it] last year when it was his vice commodore year. I said, 'I will, but you're going to be tied to my hip,'" she said. "It's going to be a lot to keep everybody positively focused, but if anybody can do it, he can."
Staff Commodore Marshall Caplan, who served as commodore in 2005, said that while the club "seems like it's all about fun," it's key to remember it's also a business.
"I think Tom's a brilliant guy," he said. "He serves on a number of boards, and he brings a tremendous amount of business acumen."
Furthermore, Caplan said, "He's not a long-time racer and boater — he's only been doing it four or five years, but it's amazing what he's been able to accomplish."
Madden has sailed more than 8,000 miles over the past four years and has traveled along the Mexican Baja coast five times, a club news release said.
Madden said he sailed his first race from Newport to Ensenada in 2009.
As a sailor, Madden said sailing and developing programs for kids "will be a continued emphasis," during his term — especially with the upcoming national event, the likes of which he said the club hosts only once every five or 10 years.
"It's a community event," he said. "We want to showcase our city."
Above all, though, Madden said he wants to prioritize "fun, friendship and family."