What does the president of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, expert journalist; environmentalist and busy mother of an (almost) 2 year old do on her vacation? Jessica Kitchin Murphy takes her daughter, Arden, and husband, Chris, cross-country to compete in the Thistle Nationals at the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego, California.
Did we mention that she is expecting her second child in October?
We caught up with Jess “still on California time” after her cross-country trip home.
LHN&R: How did you qualify for nationals? When did you find out you were going?
All you have to do to qualify for Thistle Nationals is sail in your Districts, so teams can basically decide if they want to go and then just need to sail the required District regatta in June. We decided to crew with our long-time friend Brent Barbehenn last year, I think, and just made the final arrangements during the winter. Once you’re there, you sail three races against the whole fleet, and then the fleet is divided into a “Championship” division (top finishers) and “President’s Division.” We sailed well enough to make the top division.
LHN&R: Who was your crew? And just who is Dwayne Wade?
Brent Barbehenn skippered, my husband, Chris, sailed middle crew, and I sailed forward crew. (Brent jokingly registered Chris as “Dwayne Wade” in response to another competitor registering a “LeBron James” as crew, but it actually stuck in the results for the week!)
LHN&R: What was the competition like?
The guys at the very top — Allen Terhune, Skip Dieball, Mike Ingham, and Dave Tillson — all work for sailmakers, so they basically race sailboats for a living. Which means they’re excellent!! We had the best week of sailing I could have imagined having, but there was just no beating those guys… they pretty much don’t make mistakes, or at least they’re much better at recovering from them when they do. So we were really happy with where we placed. I don’t think it’s unfair that they were there, but it certainly adds to the challenge!
LHN&R: Where were the other teams from?
All over the country. There were plenty of West Coast teams there, but a whole lot of people made the drive from the East Coast (and in between). So it was a good mix.
LHN&R: What was the regatta format like?
You sail three races against everybody (we’re divided into four groups and it’s round robin, so you sail against your group every time and one of the other groups once each race — so it’s A+B and C+D, then A+C and B+D, and then B+C and A+D). Then they take the results and divide them in half — the top group (Championship Fleet) keeps their scores and continues to race against only each other. The bottom group (President’s Fleet) has their scores return to zero, and they race against each other for the rest of the week. There are four races within the two fleets for the rest of the week, so there are seven races total over five days.
Chris Murphy (a.k.a. Dwayne Wade) and Brent Barbehenn.
LHN&R: What were your results and are you pleased with them?
We had a 9, 4, 5, 1, 8, 3, 4. We were very pleased with those results! So we finished with 34 points (the boats ahead of us had 20, 27, 27, and 31, and the next boat behind us in sixth had 56 points).
Chris and Jess Murphy with skipper Brent Barbehenn win fifth place.
LHN&R: Your mentioned that you would take sailing on Lake Hopatcong any day over sailing in the pacific. Why?
Where to begin? Giant ocean swells (I was not feeling so great the first couple of days as a result of those!), regular sightings of sea lions and dolphins, and having to dodge giant patches of kelp throughout the race were just a few of the differences. Plus, the water is COLD! Sailing on Lake Hopatcong — even with the crazy motorboat waves and occasional weeds on the rudder — is much simpler.
LHN&R: What were the conditions like?
The wind was actually pretty light (5-10 mph all week), and as you often hear about San Diego, the weather was delightful and the same every day: sunny with temperatures in the upper 70s.
LHN&R: How long have you, your husband and Brent been sailing together?
Chris and I have been sailing together for a long time — before we were even dating. I’ve regularly crewed for him since 1999, and he has regularly crewed for Brent for even longer than that. The three of us have sailed several major regattas together over the years, so we were very comfortable sailing together.
LHN&R: How did you feel being in your third trimester and sailing in Nationals?
We finished racing on Friday and I hit the third trimester on Sunday, so I snuck it in under the wire! It actually wasn’t so bad — many times I’d kind of forget that I was pregnant. Racing is pretty distracting! And because the winds were relatively light, it wasn’t as strenuous as it could have been. I’m probably taking a break from sailing for the rest of the summer, though.
LHN&R: How was traveling cross-country with your almost two-year-old daughter, Arden?
Exhausting, but she was actually very good. We told her at the airport before we left that there was a rule: No crying on airplanes. And she actually followed it! Once we got to San Diego, my mom was there to watch her during the week, so things were much easier thanks to her! (And she’s actually turning two this Saturday!)
LHN&R: How did Arden spend her time on shore?
Playing with “Gram.” My mom took her to Sea World and all around San Diego, to the beach, etc.. So it was a fun week for her, too!
LHN&R: Has Arden started sailing yet?
Arden went sailing with us for a few minutes last summer, and sailed on Lake Hopatcong in a race on Father’s Day, which we actually won (go figure!). So she’s got a little bit of boat time under her belt. She’s actually a fourth-generation Thistle sailor and a fourth-generation member of the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club (on my side, third-generation on my husband’s). So she kind of has no choice but to have sailing in her life.
LHN&R: What was the most exciting moment of the regatta?
Winning a race at Nationals is always fun, which we did on Wednesday. We rounded the first mark in first place and although we had Mike Ingham right behind us the whole way, we were able to hold on to our lead. That felt pretty good!
LHN&R: What was the worst, or most hair-raising moment?
Starts are always chaotic, so the adrenaline is often pumping there. And we had a moment where we saw what was likely a shark alongside our boat (or at least something that looks like a shark), so that was a bit exciting. The worst for me, though, was the first day when we went out for the practice race. The swells were huge, and I wasn’t sure if I could survive the week without getting sick. Fortunately, those waves died down as the week went on.
LHN&R: What are your plans for the next racing season?
Nationals are in Sayville, Long Island next summer, so we’ll definitely be there — in fact, the LHYC Thistle Fleet is running the regatta. Looking forward to it already! Other than that, it will mostly be regular Sunday racing on Lake Hopatcong. Though we’ll be leaving two kids on shore next summer, so securing babysitting will be an even bigger part of our summer. Thank goodness for my mom, the ultimate shore support!
Well, Jess – from all of us here in the Lake Hopatcong community – congratulations! Well done! We are all proud of you. And happy birthday to you, Arden!