Mainsheet: Tell us about your how you got into sailing.
Jenn Lancaster: My father was in the military, so I grew up all over. We lived in San Diego, then Florida, then New Hampshire/Maine (the Navy base is on an island on a river between the two states). We always had a sailboat so I learned how to sail pretty young, but we never really raced competitively. Then, one year we hosted the Naval Academy Sailing Team for a 4th of July dinner. It was Maine, so it was still freezing in July, and they all wore really cool jackets. I told my dad I wanted one and he said, “You have to learn how to sail!” So, I did. Years later, I went to college at UNH and saw an ad for the sailing team. I joined, picked up racing pretty quickly, eventually became team captain…and we got cool jackets!
MS: What did you study in college?
Jenn: I majored in Communications with a concentration in American Revolutionary War Rhetoric. It sounds nerdy, but I love the study of rhetoric. I use it all the time, and I’m always thinking about how a situation can change based on the rhetoric you apply to it, even in race management.
MS: After graduating, where did you go?
Jenn: Those sailing jackets weren’t just a one-off thing. I was always interested in fashion design and my life hit a big fork after college. I had to decide between a career in fashion design or…sailing. I had worked one summer at Community Boating on the Charles River in Boston. I loved everyone I worked with and, unbeknownst to me, there was a connection between my boss and some of the members at Newport Harbor Yacht Club. When NHYC posted an ad for a Racing Director, my Community Boating boss sent it my way and I applied. That became my career for 16 years.
MS: What was the heart of the racing program at NHYC?
Jenn: Our membership. There was a mentality of “all for one, one for all.” There was strong camaraderie that I know will live on past my tenure. They are building a new clubhouse and I’m excited to see them grow.
MS: You started at StFYC on July 1, and must have hit the ground running, as that was (and is) the heart of our racing season. Tell us about a day-in-the-life for you?
Jenn: Right now, I’m focusing on learning the systems in place and absorbing everything I can from the membership. I’m doing a lot of listening. I’m starting to implement some of my own management practices and organizational touches. Here’s an example: in 2017, sailing had a big Rules change, so while many of our documents would typically roll over year to year, I’m going through every document and doing a pretty big overhaul.
MS: What do you like about your job?
Jenn: I’m passionate about sailing and about yacht clubs. I love that I get to come and work here every day. People used to tell me, “You’re doing a great job, Jenn!” and I would say, “It’s because I have a great job.” If someone asks me what I do, I say that I’m a “steward of people’s recreational time.” This is where people choose to spend their time, and that’s important. I take it pretty seriously.
MS: What are you looking forward to?
Jenn: Getting to know the job better, and implementing some of my lessons-learned into my department; getting to know the membership and their diversity of skillsets and backgrounds; carving out my place as a hard worker and also a cheerleader; reminding people that we’re here because we love sailing.
MS: What do you do when you’re not at work?
Jenn: I really like taking walks, cooking, and gardening. I feel most at peace when I’m outside in the fresh air and the sunshine. MS: What’s going on in your own sailing life? Jenn: I recently purchased a Harbor 20 in Newport Beach, which I love, but I had to leave it there as it’s really meant to be sailed in a safe harbor. It was the perfect boat because, at 20ft, you could race it with two people or cocktail cruise it around the harbor with six friends. I love team racing and match racing, but it’s pretty hard to make my work schedule allow for sailing.
MS: Your dream vacation destination?
Jenn: I would love to go to Japan because I think it’s the most different from where I live—it’s the place that would most make me feel like a fish out of water. I appreciate decorum, and I feel like Japan has plenty of it.