“If the surf was up, I didn’t go to school,” says Annapolis sailor Juliet Thompson. A native of Queensland, Australia, she says, ” I attribute my many years on my surfboard on the waves to my never getting seasick,” she says and laughs. “But, they say that means you haven’t met your conditions yet.”
Following years of earning degrees-an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and post-graduate work in education, special education, and psychology-raising a family, and moving from Australia to Washington, DC, and back, Thompson moved to Annapolis for a teaching job 1993. She joined the Annapolis Rowing Club and met a friend who invited her to go sailing on an E-Scow. A subsequent invitation to race log canoes led to a sailing-crazy life. “I would row from 6 to 8am. and then rush to be on a sailboat by 9 a.m. It was all for a need to get out on the water. I eventually had to give up rowing.”
Thompson learned how to work the bow and did so for a few years on the Pearson Flyer Blaze Star and then on the Tripp 26 Captain Tripp. Her offshore experiences include a few Annapolis to Newport Races and the Marblehead Halifax and Annapolis to Bermuda Races. For more than five years, she volunteered on summer afternoons for the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron and became a volunteer coordinator. She also earned a USCG captain’s license.
About six years ago, Thompson got into a race committee work “in a big way,” she says. “I love the variables. The challenge of running a good race is huge. You have to weigh things like how long the mark boat will take, wind, currents, types and numbers of boats, skill levels…You have to know your race committee and understand how they work and more. It’s been amazing working with the likes of Chip Thayer and Wayne Bretsch.” What should racers know about committee work? ” I think people should try it. It’s not just the variables of decision making. When you’re on race committee, you’re part of a team, just like sailing, but you’re also a spectator. You’re watching everyone start and do mark roundings. You can listen to them and tell who’s dialed in. You will see how the race committee makes their decisions, and then you can anticipate their decisions and use it to your advantage when your racing yourself.”
When she’s not doing race committee or sailing on the Cal 36 Diamond in the Rough, Thompson teaches forensic and environmental science at Bowie High School and works on the addition to her home in the Historic District of Annapolis.
SpinSheet: When was the last time you fell overboard?
I was on the J/105 Mojo coming into Back Creek. We saw some newspaper floating in the creek, and I went down to get it and slipped headfirst overboard. One crew grabbed one of my feet and one the other, but they were moving in opposite directions! Needless to say, we had to work together at that point.
Do you have a good crash story?
I was a scorer one time at the Screwpile Regatta with the Hampton Roads group. Five boats were finishing, and one peeled off and headed for the committee boat. They caused some pretty serious damage, and the race committee hit the deck for protection. I managed to keep hitting the button and finished all the boats in the yacht scoring program in the middle of it.
Who are your sailing buddies?
The Diamond in the Rough crew are the best guys I know: Jim Mumper, Jim Urban, Bob DeYoung, Mike Binnix, Ken Binnix, Russ Till, Bob Mumper, Bill Reibold and Chris and Julie Troxell.
Do you have any sailing or non-sailing book recommendations?
The Proving Ground by G. Bruce Knect about the Sydney Hobart Race and Poplar Island: My Memories as a Boy by Peter K. Bailey.
You’re taking a road trip. What’s on your playlist?
Bruce Springsteen “Born to Run” is good driving music, also Bryan Ferry and Janice Joplin.
What do you do on Saturday in the off-season?
I’m building a two-story addition on the back of my house. My daughter and I ripped off the roof and came out all sooty looking like coal miners. It’s been going on for so long , people ask me,”Are you still working on that?”
What three pieces of sailing gear could you not live without?
Dubarry boots for offshore sailing, a hockey puck for race committee work, and what I call my picnic basket, a cooler I bought in Australia, which I fill with cups, coke, Mount Gay rum and ice.
What advice would you give a young racing sailor?
Always make sure you are having fun. You can get wrapped up in competition and lose sight of that. You also don’t have to stay on a boat you don’t like. Once you get on a fun boat with the right combination of people, they become like family.
If money were no object, what kind of boat would you buy?
A 51-foot Swan with a dark hull called Jezebel. I can picture this boat. It’s beautiful I’m on the radio coming into port announcing, “Jezebel has intentions of coming in.”