Christopher O’Brien serves as President of Sail250 New York, the tall ship extravaganza, where he directs the international commemoration of America’s 250th anniversary of independence that will culminate in New York Harbor on July 4, 2026.
A native of Cape Cod Massachusetts, he developed a life-long passion for sailing and the ocean as a Sea Scout while in secondary school. After graduation from Fitchburg State University, he attended the U.S. Coast Guard Officer Candidate School in Yorktown, Virginia, was commissioned in the summer of 1991 and secured an assignment to Governors Island New York as an electrical engineer. While in the Coast Guard, he served as Admiral’s Aide to the Commander, before moving to the Marine Prevention and Compliance Command where, as a marine inspector, he focused on environmental protection and safe vessel operations within New York Harbor.
Throughout his career, O’Brien has taken on numerous challenging roles involving large-scale event production and logistics. He served as Director of Fleet Week NYC for the U.S. Navy; as director of installation removal for the international acclaimed artist Christo’s “The Gates NYC”; Events Producer for Operation Sail 2000, and from 2004 to 2016 as Executive Director of Operation Sail. In this capacity he developed and executed plans for OpSail 2012; a six-port series of major international tall ship events, produced in partnership with the U.S. Navy, coordinating with international naval attaches and senior civilian, military and elected officials.
Additionally, he served as Maritime Director of the United Nation’s World Ocean Festival NYC, where he designed, planned and executed myriad aspects of the ocean science festival supporting U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 14, for ocean conservation and sustainable use.
In addition to his maritime career, O’Brien served as Director, Programs and Finance for the Boeing Company’s Information and Intelligence Systems Division, where he was responsible for financial control, program management, and contracting for more than $200 million in annual contract obligations. He and his wife Diana Schmidt-O’Brien are the parents of two brilliant young adults, Jake and Laura.