By the Slimmest of Margins
By the Slimmest of Margins
The crew of Thomas Klok's Guldfaxe won a three-way tie for first in the J/80 class and earned the overall victory at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD.
After a weekend of big breeze and dramatic windshifts on Chesapeake Bay, you might not expect an out-of-towner to come out on top of the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, where members of the Capital City's strong racing community accounted for the majority of the 220-boat fleet. Nonetheless, when the overall winner was announced, it was Copenhagen resident Thomas Klok—whose team won a three-way tie for first place in the 29-boat J/80 division—who came bounding up to accept the silver dish, as well as the real prize, an invitation to join the winners of seven other NOOD regattas at the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Championship, hosted by Sunsail in the British Virgin Islands this November.
The Guldfaxe team has a unique dynamic. Klok is the owner/ main trimmer. His brother-in-law, Will Crump, drives the boat. Klok's sister, Marie Crump, handles foredeck duties. The trio also works together in the management consultanting business, which is why they refer to fourth crewmember, Scott Collins, as their therapist. "A lot of people wonder how we can work together and sail together," says Will Crump. "Somehow, we make it work. I think it's because we can be honest with each other. Sometimes, it's hard for family members who sail together to be honest with each other about what needs to change."
What were your expectations coming into the event?
Will Crump: There were three world champions in the fleet, and this is probably the toughest J/80 regatta in the U.S. this year. So we didn't have great expectations, aside from looking at it as practice, because we'll be going to Copenhagen for the worlds later this year.
Klok: We got the boat about a year ago for the worlds in Newport (R.I.). I lived in Newport for a few years, and when found out the worlds would be in my home turf two years in a row...
So we did the worlds in Newport last October, then we left the boat here and sailed Charleston Race Week and this event, then we'll be shipping the boat to Denmark in about a week.
With the worlds in Newport last year, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the J/80 in the U.S. Have you noticed a tapering off since then?
Will Crump: Not at all. It's actually ramped up. People came out of that event saying, "What a phenomenal boat and class." There's still a lot of development going on in the class. There a lot of difference between what the various sailmakers are offering, yet everyone's going about the same speed. So there's a lot of opportunity for people to get into the class and have fun figuring out the boat.
We did extensive tests with North and Quantum, and we happened to prefer North's stuff. We felt happy with them at the worlds, and we've been working a bit with Vince Brun. If we see something a little off, we'll take a photo and send it to Vince to get his opinion. We've been working a bit with him to tweak the sails before the worlds.
It was blowing over 15 every day in Newport, so we had all the practice in the world planing downwind, but we had questions about whether we could sail in light air. This regatta was specifically for us to figure out whether or not we could sail in light air.
So I guess you'll need to find another event...
Marie Crump: We've got to be careful we don't peak too early!
What put you on top this weekend?
Klok: Chemistry and consistency.
Marie Crump: We really had to flight back. Like everybody else, we were all over the racecourse. There were a lot of major shifts in the fleet. We were first overall the first day, [Saturday] we had one bad race and dropped to second overall. Tiamo, which was in first going into today, had come from fifth to first, so that shows you how competitive it was. It was about not giving up. You have to keep fighting.
Will Crump: We've done a fair amount of sailing in Annapolis. I used to be a local here way back in the 90s. One of the things that always frustrated me was I'd see somebody come in from out of town who didn't know the area, and, in conditions where everybody who lives here would say, "When it blows out of this direction, and the clouds are in such and such a way, always go left," you'd have this out-of-towner who'd go right and end up at the mark first or second, breaking those rules. And so we kind of went into the weekend saying, "Forget the rules of being a local. Even though we've sailed here a bunch in the past, let's just focus on the basics, being on the lifted tack, fighting, and not riding on our heels."
One thing we noticed, especially yesterday, was that some of the teams, when they got in front or passed a boat, they'd move into maintenance mode. "Let's just cover." We never let ourselves get into that mode. That was a chemistry situation for us as a team. We always felt we needed to work hard.
I sailed on Course 3 on Friday, and there was a lot of talk about, with the wind coming from the west and bending around the point, you could catch a lift on starboard tack coming into the windward mark, etc.
Marie Crump: Exactly. We just tried to block that out of our mind. The rule for us this weekend was, never be on a headed tack and sail for pressure, and of course try to pay attention to the current. But we found most of the time that, as long as we paid attention to our angle to the mark and the pressure, that trumped anything else.
With the wind shifting so dramatically, how did you stay out of the corners?
Will Crump: The J/80 responds really well to gear changing—backstay on, traveler down, all that stuff—and so being in the pressure made a huge difference. It was worth tacking. Being in the pressure meant a few more degrees of point, a little more speed, so finding pressure and being able to tack at any moment made a big difference.
What will you jot down in your notebook?
Will Crump: Thomas made me write down the measurements of the calipers in the notebook, so that way we'll remember our rig settings for Denmark! We take a lot of notes about rig tension and sail-trim settings and things like that. We also take a lot of pictures. so we can go back and visualize. The three of us also work together.
Mind if I ask what you do?
We do management consulting and data strategy for Fortune 200 companies.
So analytics are pretty important to you?
Absolutely. We do a lot of corporate performance management on the data side of things. So, for instance, there's a company and Wal-Mart calls up and says, "You didn't ship us your product, so therefore we're going to bump you from our vendor list or take more of a discount." Those are the type of people who come to us as customers. There's something down the line of activities relating to the data that got missed, that didn't allow them to ship the product.
On the boat, it's a streaming set of conversations between business and sailing. We're always going back and forth, doing the best we can in every single aspect of what we do. So, with the photos, visuals are helpful for us when we step back in and say, "Okay, how did we do this?" There were some things we had forgotten from the worlds, and so at the end of the regatta we were like, "We need to mark that. Write this down." Actually, Marie had the idea of putting together an operating manual, because there's so much to remember, things that we do as a ritual for getting the boat together.
Marie Crump: We take the boat apart, and now it's going to go for a month and a half, two months, before we touch it again. It's just a checklist, like any pilot before taking off.
Klok: It's good, because as we were taking the boat apart, I was like, "Oh, we never taped this. Let's remember that!"
What else will you write down?
Will Crump: We're hoping that Thomas writes down our names as crew for the worlds, because it's not totally set yet!
- For complete results, click here.
- For photos by Tim Wilkes and Jeremiah Tamagna-Darr, click here.
- For complete event coverage, click here.