Annapolis entrepreneur and prior J/World sailing coach sees continued success as amateur sailing stand-out

R80 came back to win the J 80 North American title. (Photo Credit www.photoboat.com)
R80 came back to win the J 80 North American title. (Photo Credit www.photoboat.com)

During last week’s 25th Block Island Race week the J/80 class contested their North American Championship.  More than half of the competitors were Annapolis based with many of the crews having J World Annapolis affiliations.  J World Annapolis co-director Kristen Berry, J World Annapolis coach Aaron Galvin were racing.  Aaron bested Berry’s team by helping long time J World Annapolis clients onboard Courageous place third overall.

Two races on the final day made the difference for skipper Will Crump and his team aboard R80, which launched a comeback to topple the previous leader USA 1162, skippered by John White (Annapolis, Md.). “There were five points between us, and we were excited about the conditions but anxious about the fog,” said Crump, a 1999 J 80 North American champion (as crew)whose crew was comprised of wife Marie, her brother Thomas Klok and new crew member Chris Larson (all from Annapolis). “We’re more experienced in the high breeze, so we knew it was possible to win.  We did a little match racing with our competition to get him driven back in the fleet in the first start. For the second start, we didn’t have such a command, but we got out and away early.”

Crump, a former JWorld Annapolis head coach (1993-1998) has been racing sailboats for more than 40 years, and has owned and raced his J/80 for the last three seasons.  Performing well at major championships is not new to Crump, past successes include winning the 1999 J/80 NA’s as tactician with Roger Kagan another fellow J/World coach, 2000 J/22 East Coast Champion as tactician with Annapolis sailmaker Scott Nixon, 1994 J/29 NA Championship as tactician and 1999 & 2003 J/22 Mid-Atlantic Champion as driver/skipper.

Will took a few minutes to chat with us about his success.  Here is what he had to say:

JWA:  Congratulations on a great win at the J/80 North American Championship held during the 25th Block Island Race Week.  You had an impressively consistent week of racing, what do you think were the keys to your success last week?

We have had a long-standing focus on boatspeed and boathandling which we have seen improve dramatically in the last 24 months, but only recently as we started to establish more consistent participation from a tactician did we see the whole picture start to round out on the score sheet. You can look at boatspeed as your ‘offense’ and your boathandling as ‘defense’ while the tactics play out as having the right coaching. We put the whole package together for this event. Another team I would look to with that analogy would be Courageous where Aaron seems to have put together the right performance as a coach.

 JWA:  Racing on R80 is a “family affair.”  How important to your team’s racing success is that crew dynamic?  Does racing with friends and family make racing better or more challenging?

I’m a big believer in family racing. It’s how I grew up, and it is how most people are introduced to the sport. Our family relationship is more intense than most because my wife Marie and brother-in-law Thomas also work with me. I would attribute our family success in work to our ability to sail together. The dynamics are different for sure. Tony Rey gave us some of the best advice ever by saying families have this great non-verbal chemistry that can work, but it unravels fast if they can’t commit to ‘telling the truth’ about performance and errors. That means we have had to work hard at taking awkward discussions of performance and moving on with determination and not layering baggage on top of the communication process. In the end, it is rewarding winning any event with your best friends.

JWA: As a fellow competitor, I was really impressed with your ability to keep the boat moving quickly in the lumpy conditions.  I think our Thursday Night Racing clients would be very interested in hearing about how you set up the boat to keep going fast in the conditions that we experienced?

 We have evolved through a number of different rig configurations in the last 3 years, and I think we are finally landing on the right dynamics now in going full circle. That rig set-up is seriously important to generating the right feel in a boat that is notoriously neutral, but I would say that I do tend to perform better in lump than most drivers across many boats and here are the 3 reasons.

1)     When I first came to Annapolis in 1993 with my J/24 as a total unknown, I couldn’t find anyone to sail and practice with me and I recruited J/World students for the Thursday night series the first year. To practice, I would sail by myself single-handing the boat and practicing the lessons I taught at J/World by tying off the tiller and steering by sail-trim…..not easy on the J/24 or the lumpy Annapolis seabreeze. Focus on how to set the boat up for a balance that works in the conditions.

2)     I work hard to stay physically fit because I saw the serious rewards in the J/22 and J/24 when the breeze came on and required serious vang-sheeting. I could clearly see the difference up the first beat as others would start to get lazy in the adjustments of the main to shift gears on waves and puffs. Never stop the gear-shifting….. I go to Annapolis Sailing Fitness with Harry Legum to keep me focused on the right strength to deal with the fitness necessary.

3)     You have to listen to the boat and respond. If the boat isn’t saying anything to you through the feel in the tiller or under your butt, than get help to learn that feel.

 JWA: Your team has a lot of experience racing.  Given that there are a variety of leadership and communications styles on race boats I am curious how you would describe the “work flow” onboard?  How are speed decisions, strategic decisions and tactical decisions made on the race course?

 Good question. As a family we have been trapped the last year in several events. I personally have most experience in fleet racing while Thomas and Marie are match racers by background, and that has left us in a ‘committee decision’ mode with me tied up on the helm where you can’t see everything. IN certain circumstances that has worked ok and it is how we won the 2011 NOOD event with a lot of talent in the fleet, but that was in our backyard and we just stayed out of trouble. The more intense the competitive scenario the more authoritarian the leadership dynamic gets with communication directed out of the tactician role. In our team, Marie has a spectacular eye for the wind and my ear is tuned to hear her voice for that input, and Thomas is talking about the boats over my shoulder in terms of speed, point and general fleet activity while I handle the activity under the boom.

JWA:  The old axiom reads that the race is often won before the start.  How long have you been preparing for this specific event, what sort of pre-event preparations do you think were important.

We consider ourselves eternal students in the sport, and this event is the beginning of a preparation cycle in many ways, but our actual preparation started over the winter as we were evaluating rig, sails, team and the right practice regimen moving into the event.

 JWA:  In an act of gratuitous self promotion, I have to ask…  How did you time working with J World Annapolis contribute to your success at the 2013 J/80 North American Championship?

J/World afforded me the opportunity to learn from some really great sailors back in the early 90’s most importantly the tireless J/World Annapolis owner Jahn Tihansky whose work ethic I still see as second to none, but it also offered me the opportunity to constantly reinforce my knowledge across a wide variety of activities along with refining my personal communication style that has become critical in my teambuilding in business and prior success as a tactician.

 JWA: What does the future hold for R/80?  Will we continue you to see you on Thursday Night’s?  Will you be making a run at repeating your title next year in Annapolis?  Can we expect to see you on the line for the J/80 World Championships in 2014?

 I think you will see us ramping up our participation in Annapolis events and continuing to see if we can encourage others to enjoy the J/80 class. The boat is an incredible sailing machine that is perfectly suited to the Annapolis conditions.

 

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