dave reed headshot
I ran into the Storck family; father John Jr., sons Erik and John, and daughter Kaitlin, as they streamed out of the big tent at this year’s Acura Key West Race Week. Walking in close quarters, as if they were still on the rail of their J/80 Rumors, they were carrying a pair of trophies to pile into the vault back home in Huntington, N.Y. Sunburned and brimming with humble satisfaction, they’d won their class once again, and were off to dinner together.
In this passing moment, in a regatta village packed with thousands of individuals connected by a passion for racing, revelry, and the logos on their team shirts, it was obvious that this tight-knit clan shares something more profound than simply getting around the racecourse first. The Storcks, much like the teams profiled by Chris Pastore in this issue (p. 30), embody what is most unique to our sport-it’s something you can enjoy with the entire family. Can you name any other competitive sport that embraces family teams? I can’t. So why is it such a big deal when the Storck family wins Key West? The answer is simple: family teams are the exception, not the norm.
From the time each of his four children were infants, John Jr. brought them along on the family PHRF boat, an Ericson 39, and gradually involved them in the sailing of the boat as they grew older. (You’ll hear more of this in a future story on getting kids involved in big-boat sailing). There were family cruises well into the fall, and even on Thanksgiving Day. There was messing about in anchorages in the Dyer sailing dink. And later, as the kids enrolled in the local sailing program, there was full parental support and encouragement. When schedules inevitably conflicted, each was left to their own devices. “We never forced them,” says Storck. “It had to be something they wanted, but it was always available to them.”
The obvious result is they each have sailing in their blood. It’s what pulls them together at regattas several times a year, especially as they grow older and their careers cast them wide. How proud the elder Storck must be, the envy of crewless fathers, to still have his twenty-somethings with him on the water, as he has for more than two decades. How proud they must be to thrive in-and because of-each other’s presence.
Winning, of course, is a perk, but John Storck finds an even richer by-product of being surrounded by his offspring at each and every regatta. He has watched their collective sailing experiences define their individual personalities and the relationships among them. “It’s because of the sailing that they’re all very close,” he says, “and it’s because of the sailing that they have the utmost respect for each other, on and off
Then there’s also how sailing has cemented his own relationship with them. He recalls how his father bought the Ericson back in 1972, just as John Jr. was getting out of college, and they raced it together, his father usually letting him drive. “I did all the big races with him. He let me participate in the sailing of the boat, and here I am, doing the same exact thing with my kids. It’s life repeating itself.”
You might say that Storck is fortunate to have sheparded his kids into sailing in a time before our society became fixated on organized weekend youth sports and hyperactive scheduling. Today, we use shallow excuses that there are too many extracurricular activities demanding our kids’ attention, or that sailing isn’t cool enough compared to extreme sports like skateboarding. I don’t buy into any of that, and the Storcks are Exhibit A. Those who really want to involve their families (and spouses for that matter) simply make the effort. Have you?