OurLife: Sailing has become obsession, avocation, family sport

The Strothman family of sailors includes sons David and Peter (from left, in back) and wife Barbara and Jack, in front. (Submitted photo)


Contributing Writer

Jack Strothman can tell you exactly when he got hooked on sailing. He was 11 years old, growing up on the north end of Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

“My mom told me and a neighbor we could watch the [sailboat] races on Lake Calhoun,” Strothman said. “Someone invited my friend to ride on a boat. I got a ride the next day, and I was hooked.”

The next step, he said, was to convince his brother and two sisters to pool their allowances until they saved enough money to buy a used boat the next year. “Our parents didn’t sail,” he said. “This was a kids’ boat.”

“We quickly got into trying racing,” said Strothman, a graduate of Yale University and the University Minnesota Law School. “We had no instruction. We were just kids having fun.

“Sailing is a lifelong sport that is enjoyable from pleasure sailing or cruising to competitive racing,” Strothman said. “Anyone starting out will learn the basics quickly and most will be hooked for life.

“In competitive sailing there are always challenges to win races and different ones [challenges] each race due to the level of competition and wind conditions.”

By the time he was 16, he’d had lessons, and Strothman eventually taught sailing on Lake Calhoun for seven years while he was in college and then law school at the University of Minnesota.

Strothman, a resident of Deephaven, has been a member of the Minnetonka Yacht Club since 1965. He is an attorney with Lindquist & Vennum.

Sailing has been a passion for Jack Strothman since he was growing up on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. (Submitted photo)

Since he began sailing, Strothman has sailed in a C-scow 20-foot sailboat, E-scow for 10 years, and now a 38-foot A-scow for the last eight years.

“I’ve had a lot of fun,” he said. “My two sons got into sailing, too. They won U.S. youth championships, and sailed on college teams. Now they’re both national champions.”

Son David was captain of his college sailing team and won national championships in three different major sailing classes. Son Peter was a two-time All-American at Harvard and also won three different major national championships. “My sons’ accomplishments pale in comparison [to mine],” Strothman said.

Peter, a Harvard graduate, is a partner in a private equity firm in Chicago. David, a graduate of Connecticut College, is an orthopedic spine surgeon in the Twin Cities.

Strothman and his wife, Barb, who has sailed and crewed with him, own a condo on Sanibel Island, Florida, where they spend half the year. “We spend summer months sailing on Lake Minnetonka and traveling to sailing regattas,” Strothman said.

“It’s an obsession, a great avocation, a family sport,” Strothman said.

“We’ve traveled all over the country,” Strothman said. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and England, and at various venues in Canada and various world championships. That’s where the competitions were.”

This year, the 2017 Inland Championship Regatta is in August at the Lake Geneva Yacht Club in Wisconsin, and the 14th annual A Scow National Championship was June 23-25 at the Minnetonka Yacht Club, Strothman said.

“Each regatta win has been memorable,” Strothman said. “We have been fortunate. Most memorable to me, however, have been the national regatta victories of my sons, David and Peter.”

“Our first Olympic effort was in 1972 and the last in 1980,” he said. “We were close to winning the Olympic trials in 1972 (only the winning boat goes in this sport) and closer yet in 1976 (the Olympics are held only every four years) and stymied in 1980 by the US Olympic boycott.”

When he’s not competing, Strothman said, he and his wife and two other couples have chartered 51-foot boats in exotic places, such as Tonga, Tahiti and Turkey.

“We’ve gone to the Caribbean umpteen times with our kids,” he said.

Now the Strothmans have seven grandchildren, and five of them have started racing, too.

He spends time teaching the grandkids, as well as helping to run youth events, Strothman said.

Sailing for health and fitness

According to Health Fitness Revolution’s website, sailing can be a great activity for health and fitness.

“Not only are you controlling a large vessel, but you’re also adjusting constantly to Mother Nature’s elements, which can be a strong force that challenges your mental and physical fitness,” the website said.

It lists the top 10 health benefits of sailing as follows:

•Muscle strength and endurance:  Pulling and hoisting of sails to maneuver a boat or a yacht, adds to your muscle strength for your shoulders and back.

•Cardiovascular fitness

•Mental wellness: Being out on the water puts you in a good mood not just because of the calmness of the water, but because of the salty air. The saltiness of the sea air is composed of charged ions that aid in the body’s oxygen absorption, which in turn balances serotonin levels. The more balanced your body’s serotonin levels are, the happier you’re going to be.

•Lowers stress levels: The swooshing and splashing of water, the rhythmic movement of the yacht and the sound of the wind in the sails can all affect brainwave patterns. This relaxes and soothes a busy and highly stressed-out mind.

•Increases agility: Pulling lines or hoisting sails can significantly improve your hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

•Improves concentration:  With the ultimate goal of staying safe while on board, sailing enhances a person’s ability to focus even with multiple tasks at hand.

•Improves communication skills: To effectively control a boat, the captain and his crew must act as a unified unit. They need to learn how to communicate effectively, especially through non-verbal means. Everyone on board has a crucial role to play in order to keep the ship afloat.

•Spatial awareness: Sailing requires the participant to be aware of the dimension of the boat along with the space required for the maneuvering of the boat.

•Organizational skills: Being on a ship requires that everything be kept in “shipshape.”