The following is the September APS Chesapeake Racer Profile, a monthy hi-light in Spinsheet Magazine (written by Molly Winans):
If you think the idea of a 10-year-old kid stealing a Sunfish for a ride, getting caught, and then charming the boat’s owner into teaching him to sail on a Midwestern reservoir sounds far fetched, you’ve never met Kristen “K.B.” Berry. An Indiana native, Berry came into sailing through a burning desire and the public library system. “Every spring,I caught the sailing bug, even though no one in my family could sail. In my family, if you had a dream, you researched it. My dad took me to the library, and I read every book there was on sailing.”
Through college at Indiana University in the mid-1990s, Berry bounced back and forth between his studies in the Midwest and working for political campaigns in Washington, DC. During those years and afterwards mostly living in DC and still working in politics—doing lobbying, communications, and conservation work—he connected to the DC sailing scene and began coaching. He also lived aboard a Catalina
27 for a few years, which wasn’t as difficult as it may sound because he was seldom “home” in between work travels.
In 2003, he started teaching part-time for J/World Annapolis. Berry says, “From the first time I coached there, I knew that was what I wanted to do.” He has coached J/World corporate teambuilding groups, taught racing and fundamental sailing, and run winter seminars both in Annapolis and in Key West and St. Petersburg, FL during regattas. He credits his J/World friends for “coaxing him away from his political life in DC” and into his sailing life.
In 2007, Berry launched his own coaching company, Gale Force Sailing, now based in Annapolis, which he runs in tandem with his continued J/World work. He’s competed and coached aboard J/105, J/22,J/80, J/24, J/35, Melges, and many other fleets. Although he’s proud of having placed fourth in the 2007 J/80 North American Championships with Jahn Tihansky, Dan Wittig, and Jeff Jordan in 2007, he says, “I see myself as a professional sailing educator rather than a pro sailor. My goal is to give the gift of a moment, an experience, to other sailors.”
Last year, Berry became the commodore of the Ocean Conservation YC (ocyc.oceana.org), a group for which he tripled his fundraising goal and successfully competed in the Nautica New York City Triathlon July 18. “I’ve been an environmental advocate my whole life, and it’s always found its way into my life at all levels,” he says.
At the time of print, Berry was in Chester, Nova Scotia, where he likes to ride out the summer heat in July and August, acting as an arbitrator for Chester Race Week, the oldest regatta in North America, and sailing in a fleet of 26 Bluenoses (23-foot wooden sloops). He’ll be back for fall racing on the Chesapeake Bay and the winter Florida circuit.
SpinSheet: Who were your sailing mentors?
My parents, who showed me where the library was; Jahn Tihanksy; and Joni Palmer, who showed me how to be professional in sailing.
Who are your best sailing buddies?
Tim Adelman, Dan Wittig, Jeff Jordan, Grady Byus, Aaron Galvin, and my clients—love them all.
Is there a place on the Bay that makes you think, “This is why I live here”?
I love to sit at Hemingway’s on the Eastern Shore on a Sunday night and watch all that Bay Bridge traffic fight its way back to the real world. There always seems to be a storm cloud creating a dramatic sky.
Do you have a routine the morning of a race?
I get up as early as possible and develop a weather strategy. I drink a cup of coffee and envision what I’d do with the absence of other boats—if it were a time trial and not a boxing match, based on the forecast. Then I do a short yoga routine to stretch, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
What sports teams do you follow?
I’m a Washington Nationals and Redskins fan. Having lived mostly in DC from 1994 to 2009, I still love the teams. I like rooting for the underdogs. And I still love my Indiana Hoosier basketball teams.
What were your latest iTunes downloads?
Michael Franti, Bob Schneider, and Charlie Mars.
What sailing gear do you depend on?
I am a Patagonia lover from socks to smocks. For my coaching, I use my Nikon D40 camera, a Flip video camera, my Timex watch, a waterproof notebook from Write in the Rain, and my Leatherman Wave.
What advice would you give a young racing sailor?
Show up and smile. Watch, listen, and be willing to do anything. Don’t oversell your abilities. When the chance comes along, ask if you can try something.