Farewell to Friends: Jim Allsopp

Annapolis sailor and longtime sail loft owner Jim Allsopp died March 12 from brain cancer at 72.

As a youth on dinghies in Long Island and as a young man at the University of Miami, Jim became a talented sailor, who would later influence many others personally and professionally. He won the 1976 Star World Championship in Nassau and the Star European Championship in Marstrand, Sweden, the same year. His colleague Will Keyworth comments, “Who does that? That just shows you how good he was.”

In 1977, Lowell North asked him to be the trimmer on his 12-meter Enterprise for the America’s Cup Defender series. He then asked him to run the new North Sails loft in Annapolis, which he did successfully for about three decades.

Keyworth tells the story about when times were tough in the late 80s or early 90s and he was seeking a smaller loft. In Eastport, he ran into Jim who said, “Why don’t you and your staff come work for me?” And he did, for “more years than I’d like to count,” says Keyworth. “He was decisive like that in business.”

allsopp_webDecisiveness on boats was another story. “One time when I was sailing with Jimmy, I said for *#@! sake, will you make a decision? He said, ‘Indecision is the key to flexibility, and flexibility is the key to success.’”

“He was really good at what he did, but he had a weird way of approaching it all,” says Keyworth. “He didn’t do it by the book. He did it the Jimmy way. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it was successful. He was a legend, but it was on his own terms… He had fun with it. He saw the fun in sailing more than a lot of people do.”

While sailing Ricardo Bonadeo’s 50-footer Rrose Selavy, Jim and his team survived the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race storm in which 15 sailors died and five boats sank. In the 1980s, he sailed in the Italian Sardinia Cup and Admiral’s Cup teams. Jim acted as navigator in the America’s Cup on the 12-meter Eagle in 1987 in Perth, Australia, and as mainsail trimmer on Russell Long’s 12-meter Clipper in the 1980 Defender Series.

In the 1990s, Jim sailed with King Juan Carlos and as helmsman and tactician for the Spanish maxi, one ton, and Copa Del Rey teams. He also competed in the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race on George Collin’s Chessie Racing, a hometown favorite. Later, Jim worked as tactician in Superyacht circuit on the schooner Elena and J Class yacht Shamrock.

As well as sailing abroad, Jim was no stranger to the Chesapeake scene and Wednesday night races in Annapolis Harbor. Jim owned a succession of boats and most recently raced his Mumm 30 and J/70, both named Moxie, with his two sons, James and Cole.

I’ll remember Jim as I saw him one evening last summer, just before sunset at the mouth of Back Creek, gently sailing along in his classic 30-foot wooden daysailer with his wife of 30 years, Holley.

Jim will be greatly missed by family, friends, and sailors near and far. Friends may make donations in his honor to the Annapolis YC Foundation’s Allsopp Endowment Fund (aycfoundation.org). ~M.W.