Chris de Jongh (Skarp) on regatta-sailing with profs
‘They helped me to get better’
Chris de Jongh is a competitive regatta-sailer. His first boat – a Beneteau First 47.7, Blue Eyes – was a cruiser-racer, that also served as the family-holiday home. When his wife Marlies decided her sailing years were over, a Landmark 43 replaced the Beneteau. Team Skarp started aiming for the higher ORC-rankings.
To achieve that ambition, professional sailer Erik van Vuuren was hired in 2012 and 2013. He lifted the performance of the team to a much higher level, but that process also uncovered the limitations of a non-professional regatta-team at this level.
‘Erik taught me a lot’, Chris comments: ‘and sailing with him was a joy. But as our results became better, he became a more demanding partner. It was like he was racing with a team that should be on his level across the board. His focus shifted from coaching to the racing itself. And that is where we fell short. We are still primarily a close friends- and family-outfit. (There is a lot of De Jongh in the team – editor). We all have other commitments and that means for example that training through the winter puts a very heavy strain on the team.
The biggest improvement for team Skarp with Erik was with boat-tuning. Chris is a firm believer in calibrating your ship to a tee if you want to win. Besides that, building a good team is the other factor. ‘That happens to be a speciality of mine’, he explains. ‘We have seen a good stability in the team, although the improving results meant that sometimes we needed to raise the level of expertise on board.
After parting ways with Erik (‘he was a paid member of the crew, after all’) Chris hired two other sailors whom he describes as semi-professionals. And that is something he will continue to do. In those two the same frustration that Erik felt, struck after a while: they wanted more, the team should rise to their level. And that was not realistic.
At the moment Team Skarp is temporarily grounded. Other commitments, both business and personal, claim more attention. Chris stresses that he plans to come back. ‘The men are all eager to take up where we stopped. One phone call will suffice…’ It is as yet unclear with what ship: de Landmark is for sale.