A Conversation With 2013-2014 Etchells World Champion Marvin Beckmann
GCM: How old were you when you first started sailing?
Beckmann: About 10. My dad pushed me off on a sailfish with my mom. Not knowing much, it took me some time to make it back. I remember doing races with my sister on that same sailfish at the Seabrook Sailing Club and not doing so well.
GCM: Who was the biggest influence in your early sailing career?
Beckmann: As a youngster I enjoyed the camaraderie of friends and members of the Seabrook Sailing Club. The biggest influences on my sailing were Martin Bludworth, Earl Gerloff and my father. Each of these individuals taught me how to be competitive, what makes a sailboat go and what to look for in the wind.
GCM: One design racing on a club level seems to be on the decline, what can clubs do to get more people involved with the sport?
Beckmann: That is a tough one. Sailboat racing takes time which people don’t seem to have a lot of these days. The ironic thing is that if you don’t take the time to race locally or on the road as the pros do, your results won’t be good. The local clubs schedule and run series races, but the turnout usually isn’t there. The turnout is better for key local events, but that also has fallen off. It takes the effort of a few people to improve fleet turnout to races. I watched Ian Edwards do it for the Lighting class in 2012 where he organized half day events in preparation for the Worlds. It was a low turnout initially but ended up having enough boats to support the participation. We set up a short course Saturday afternoon and held numerous starts and mini races. This was followed by a great get together at the club or my bay house.
GCM: Did you ever crew for Martin Bludworth?
Beckmann: I sailed against him and must have crewed with him a time or two. I remember that he could be difficult on the boat, something I may have acquired from him. He was a great inspiration for the sport of sailing.
GCM: Now that you’re a world champion are you going to sail as much as you did last year?
Beckmann: We are gearing up for the Etchells Worlds next year in Newport, RI. I have already participated in several sailing events and will continue in preparation. To win a Worlds you have to be at the top of your game and have a few things fall your way.
GCM: Big money always seems to drive the sport, what’s your take on the Americas Cup?
Beckmann: This year’s final event was exciting to watch but seemed a little one sided, first for NZ and then for the US. I would like to see the countries represented by their own countrymen. The US boat was controlled by a Brit and Aussies and the office by NZ. I don’t think the cheating represented our country very well. I also think the race track was short and predictable, minimizing passing opportunities.
GCM: I know you have sailed a bunch of different kinds of boats in your career, what was it about the Etchells that attracted you to the class?
Beckmann: I got started in the Etchells because of the local fleet with notable locals of Don Genitempo, Don Harbin, Tom McCulloch, Mike Little, Johnny Maudlin, Mike McCann, Tom Meeh and Tony Smythe. We were getting ready for the 1999 North Americans where Ash Beatty, John Wilson, and I finished 2nd. The Etchells is a tactical boat that rewards boat speed and good decisions, a lot like a Soling which I sailed for years before the Etchells.
GCM: In 1977 you won the Clifford D. Mallory Cup. In 1978 and in 1979 you won the Prince of Wales match racing trophy and now you’re a world champion. Which of the three trophies do you savor the most?
Beckmann: The one-on-one game of anticipating and controlling your opponent was very rewarding and fun. Winning the Worlds in the highly competitive Etchells class is my best achievement. We had a great team and did a lot of prep for the Etchells Worlds with a lot of good results leading to the Etchells Worlds, which included winning the Jaguar Cup ( a series of 4 regattas in Miami), the Etchells Nationals and the Italian Nationals.
GCM: What is it about racing sailboats that keeps you coming back year after year?
Beckmann: I think it’s my competitive nature and I like a challenge. I do it as a hobby, so finding the time is sometimes difficult. In my younger years it was the turnout and camaraderie. Sailing J-24s with 40-60+ boats at weekend circuit stops was a blast. Over the last few years the larger events (NAs, Worlds, etc.) draw the competition and challenge in preparing to give it your best shot at doing well. It feels good to get the results against all the pros.