John Kostecki’s Eyes Are His Greatest Asset

A Detached Retina and Emergency Eye Surgery Threatened Everything

As one of America’s most accomplished sailors of his generation, and the only American to ever win an Olympic Medal, the America’s Cup, and the Round the World Race, John Kostecki has built an incredibly successful professional sail racing career and widely acknowledged as one of the sport’s best tacticians. “As a tactician, it’s very important to have the best vision possible,” he says. “A tactician’s eyes are his greatest asset. Wearing superior polarized lenses enhance my vision.”

Kostecki’s been wearing Tajima Polarized lenses for years to both protect his eyes and sharpen his vision and decision making on the water. When he found himself in emergency eye surgery for a detached retina last summer in Italy, not only was his career in jeopardy, so was his long-term eyesight.

As he explains, in his own words, simple eye discomfort on the flight to Italy for the next TP52 Super Series event late last spring quickly escalated into emergency eye surgery to preserve his eyesight. Then came the unknown as he went through months of recovery and healing…which included sourcing and adapting to wearing prescription lenses going forward.


This all took place in late spring 2023. I was flying over to Rome for the Scarlino TP52 Super Series event on Quantum Racing. Scarlino is a 2 hour drive north of Rome in the Tuscany region. On the flight to Rome, I started to feel dryness in my right eye and my vision started to get a bit blurry. I arrived in Rome and got a ride up to Scarlino that afternoon and felt like my eye was just a little dry from the flight. We trained out on the water for a few days and then after the last training day, my vision started to worsen in my right eye. My wife continued nudging me to go see a doctor.  I finally relented…after sailing I went straight to a local doctor to see what was wrong. He diagnosed me right away with a detached retina and told me I needed surgery immediately. Here I am in Italy and I’m told I have to have emergency eye surgery!  

Luckily I was quite fortunate to have an Italian teammate onboard our TP52 Quantum Racing. I immediately contacted him (Federico Michetti) and he searched for doctors in Italy that could do emergency surgery on my eye. He located a highly rated doctor in Rome that could see me the next morning. So, I got a ride down to Rome that next morning and visited this Dr. Rizzo at the Gemelli Hospital (famous hospital that the Pope uses). Dr. Rizzo had a quick look in my eye and immediately came away with the same diagnosis, detached retina. He said he could do surgery ASAP, that afternoon. Sometimes you just have to trust …  I had the surgery … it took about 2 hours and then went to stay in a nearby hotel for recovery. Dr. Rizzo saw me the following morning to make sure the surgery was successful…luckily, he confirmed it all went well! I remained bandaged up and stayed for another week in Rome to see him again after seven days. He then cleared me to fly back home to San Francisco. While Dr. Rizzo was able to complete the surgery successfully, he also confirmed that part of the procedure to fix a detached retina involved reshaping my eye. My once great eyesight would now be flawed, but I’d have my eyesight if everything healed correctly – and that indeed, was the good news!  

Once I got home, I saw my local eye doctor and she asked me to recount my story … the steps taken and who the surgeon was.  She immediately looked him up and I could tell something was going on. She turned the monitor towards me and asked if this was the doctor who performed my surgery – which I affirmed, yes, Dr. Rizzo. This is when you feel extremely lucky to be in the world of sailing where we have a tight knit community. She confirmed, indeed I was lucky to have Dr. Rizzo as my surgeon…saying he’s world famous and a well-known eye surgeon in her ophthalmic world.

Three months after surgery, my eye was healed enough that I could get my eyes tested for corrective lenses…because sure enough, while the surgeon saved my eyesight, I now required corrective lenses to see well again due to the reshaping of my eye during the procedure.

This is when I called my long-time good friend Steve Rosenberg at Tajima Direct for his advice and expertise in lens technology and eyewear. Steve’s been developing my polarized lens technology and eyewear the past few decades. As a sailor, he knows the game, knows me and my needs extremely well and recommended a hi wrap frame for overall eye protection. Since he’s been working with me on specific tints and polarized lens technology for years, he knows my preferences in tint, light transmission, and color contrast for detail that I want to see. We also wanted to start with one pair that would be a good all-around tint for a variety of light conditions since I had to start experimenting with prescription lens use. He recommended Tajima’s polarized Brown 15 with Green mirror. I first had to get used to wearing strong prescription lenses (particularly in my repaired right eye), which Steve noted, is going to take some time to get used to when placed in a hi-wrap, highly curved frame. Once again, working with experts in their field has produced great results as both the prescription, adaptation and brown green mirror lens color have worked out extremely well!


I’m very particular in what I like and want. But I don’t know the ins and outs of frames or lens colors, which is again why field expertise is so important. I wanted to have sunglasses that were super versatile for a variety of light conditions and water environments, that I could race with but also use for everyday normal life.

Now that I’m wearing prescription polarized sunglasses full time, I find my total vision to be better than ever. My teammates onboard are always amazed by what I can see and how well I can see long distances.

As a tactician it’s very important to have the best vision possible. Superior polarized lenses like Tajima produce enhance my vision. I’m constantly traveling to different parts of the world to race. As a tactician I’m looking for a lens that will protect me from the elements, cut out the harsh glare, sharpens my view and brings out color detail to help me read the subtitles on the water and ultimately improve decision making and performance…and Tajima Prescription Polarized lenses do just that!

What started out as simple dry and scratchy eyes on a plane flight, was ultimately a detached retina that could have easily cost me my eyesight. In the end, nudging from my wife, swift action from my teammate, a remarkably skilled and accomplished surgeon who took immediate action, and then trusted service and lens technology from my longtime friend at Tajima … all of this added up to delivering as happy an ending as I could have hoped for. I’m now back on the water, seeing perfectly and keeping my own skills sharp doing what I do well! Reading breeze, the racecourse, and making quality, quick decisions to help my team win!


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