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Claudia Potamkin: Dilettante, Defiant Doer


Direct eye contact is an art; a glance that lingers just long enough, a slight lean-in with the shoulders, maybe a subtle tilt of the head. It’s an art that Claudia Potamkin has mastered—a crucial skill, perhaps, for a woman who owns a 72-foot Mangusta—and when she looks at you, you know you’ve been seen.

Potamkin’s Mangusta, appropriately christened Defiance, tops out at 36 knots. For Potamkin, a woman on a mission who lives her life at full throttle whether it’s in business or philanthropy—both of which she embraces out on the water with every chance she gets—that’s roughly the equivalent of first or second gear.

A committed entrepreneur and self-described dilettante, Potamkin (who even named her first yacht Dilettante) has enjoyed a rich and varied career. But while she has played in many arenas, both personal and professional, she absolutely is the real deal.

In her college days, her play-by-play and color commentary for the University of Miami baseball team landed her a sportscaster job with talk radio WNWS in Miami and a stint as assistant sports director for ABC. She also taught gymnastics for about 10 years and at the same time began producing and recording radio and television voiceovers and documentaries. “Being the theater of the mind, I never had to worry about hair and makeup,” she says of her radio days. Still involved in media, she continues to do voiceover work and has invested in—and is personally active with—, a social networking site that holds webinars with more than 2,000 world-class experts on a host of subjects ranging from health to science to entertainment.

Potamkin’s most recent business venture, Defiance Wear, is an upscale ready-to-wear line of crew clothing she says “will defy rough seas, strong winds and reflect the elegance and style of individual yacht owners.” How appropriate for this indefatigable powerhouse of a woman who handily blends her work and extracurricular activities into her everyday life. And she pursues her hobbies with the same frenetic energy she applies to other endeavors. One of those hobbies—a passion, really—is racecar driving. She earned her pro license about seven years ago and raced in the Petite Le Mans in Braselton, Georgia, as well as the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the world’s longest endurance rally.

Potamkin and partner Sandra Yawn—who has been a yacht captain for many years and skippers Defiance—see their boat as a vehicle that allows them to give back and recently launched Global Oceans, a yacht charter company. Defiance is an International SeaKeepers Society “vessel of discovery,” which enables her owners to help create environmental awareness with a portion of company proceeds benefitting ocean ecology, wildlife conservation, everyday heroes and other worthy causes.

“The name, Defiance, is about a good defiance,” says Yawn. “It’s about defying people who say something can’t be done, defying what’s happening to our oceans, defying negativity.”

Losing her only sibling in a house fire when she was a teenager growing up in New Jersey, young people hold a special place in Potamkin’s heart. The tragedy launched her on a long journey of self-discovery and renewal that drives her in many of the directions she has taken in business and philanthropy. Her own three children grew up enjoying and learning from yachting on a variety of sail and powerboats, and to this day she uses Defiance for youth therapy and marine education. In 2014, Defiance will take kids from the YWCA of Miami Dade and students from a south Miami high school on short cruises.

Next in the works, Potamkin is planning a concert featuring famed singer Kenny Loggins’ new band, Blue Sky Riders, to benefit her numerous causes. Among her personas, Potamkin also happens to be a singer and guitar player. Maybe she’ll sit in for a few songs. Dilettante? Perhaps. Doer? Without a doubt.

Whether alternating time between homes in Aspen and Miami, or spending time aboard Defiance, Potamkin knows how to truly see whatever she’s looking at—be it a single person in the eye or beauty on an ocean-size scale. She is always looking for the “big picture,“ and says, “Mother Nature gives me time to reflect.”