Chesapeake Racer Profile: Greg Gendell

When did you realize you wanted to become a professional sailor? 

I knew I loved sailing at an early age, learning on my parents’ boats on the Magothy River. In the mid-80s, we started racing in Annapolis, events like CBYRA race week, Solomons Island Race, and the Fall Oxford. I went to Key West at age 19 with eyes wide open. I worked for local Annapolis sailmaker Jim Cullen on and off for around 10 years; he was good to me and taught me a lot. A couple of years later, I got my big break and sailed every leg of the Whitbread Around the World Race (now the VOR) with George Collins and Chessie Racing. 

What kinds of boats are you most actively sailing on right now?

I mainly sail on Quantum Racing, a TP52, and we are starting our 10th year as a team. Also, the Farr 40 Plenty and the RC44 Nika. I come and go on Bella Mente, a Maxi72. I sailed on Comanche and a couple seasons on the J Class Hanuman. I usually do a couple of superyacht regattas a year. I sail roughly 150 days a year. 

What skills and strengths make a great bowman?

You have to be organized and be able to improvise quickly when things don’t go to plan. I check, double check, and re-check everything in my area. I continually do a scan with my eyes making sure everything is how it is supposed to be. In the prestart, the bowman has a big role, and you need to be ready to communicate what you see, quickly and clearly. You have to listen well, as others will be passing on information that you need to hear and process. Be ready for anything, always run through the ‘what if’ scenarios in your head. You have to think like the tactician and know where you are on the race course. Know how much time you have on each tack and gybe, and plan your moves accordingly. The job is physical, so you need to be fit, strong, and agile. Feel the boat and know where your body weight should be, and feel what the boat needs at that moment. 

What does it take to become a professional sailor?

Have a good attitude and ask questions. Experience really goes a long way in this game. Try to sail on as many different types of boats as you can and in different types of racing. Inshore/ offshore/ match racing/ team racing/ little boats/ big boats. . . build up your knowledge base as much as you can. And be a good person. People will not ask you back if you are not nice to be around. Fitness is important, too; there is a lot of pulling, twisting, and hard exertion in sailing. Take your sailing seriously, but remember to have fun. That part goes along with being asked back!

When you’re not on the water, what kinds of activities fill your day?

My wife, Pam and I have two children. When I am home, I spend a lot of time with them; carpooling, packing lunches, playing games, and going to their sports events takes up a lot of time. Being a professional bowman requires that I keep in good shape, so I ride bikes and swim and go to the gym.

When you’re not on the job, what kind of sailing would you most like to be doing? 

I had a Laser growing up. The boat sat behind my parents’ house for close to 25 years. A few summers ago, we got it sailing again. It had ivy growing out of the hull deck joint, so three generations of Gendells cleaned it up, bonded it back together, and started sailing it again. It has brought back a lot of memories; everything on the boat is the exact way I left it back in 1988. My kids love going out on it and messing around, just like we did.

If you could go sailing with three people on the same boat, who would they be, and why? 

Easy. My dad and my kids, Ben and Katie... I am going to make that happen this summer!