An interview with Jason Crowson

by Andrew Kerr

San Francisco Bay sailor Jason Crowson is the co-owner of the Santana 20 Sea Bear, along with Lance and Patricia Purdy, and is a member of Fleet # 12.  Jason has sailed a variety of boats and is also co owner of the Express 27 Moxie that sails out of Richmond.  He has won a variety of events in the Express 27 including the Delta Ditch Run, the Coastal Cup, as well as placing in the top five at the Express 27 Nationals a number of times.

Lance Purdy has sailed with Jason in many events over the years and Andrew Kerr has joined the Moxie team for the Express 27 Nationals a number of times.  Most recently his team won the Camellia Cup and the Harvest Day Regatta on the Santana 20.  Both events were windy and Jason and his crew showed great speed and poise in the challenging conditions.

AK: How did you get into sailing?

JC: My family has owned a sailboat for as long as I can remember.  We routinely did the Vallejo race and the Windjammer race every year.  We were rarely competitive but enjoyed just being out on the water.  I really did not get into serious racing until I had the opportunity to sail on a Davidson 44 out of Waikiki back in 1994.  I then began racing on several different boats while I was stationed at Pearl Harbor.  The most memorable was a return trip from Molakai on an Express 27.  Surfing at 18-20 knots down huge waves was the ultimate ride, and I knew I had to get one of those boats some day.

AK: What attracted you to the S20 and the S20 class?

JC: Lance and I had been sailing for a few years on my Express27 and he finally asked me to come sail with him and Patricia on Sea Bear.  It was the 2003 Memorial Day regatta in Eugene.  We had a really good time and I realized I wanted to sail more with Lance and Patricia on the S20.  The competition is very high in the class and the people are super nice and easy going.  What more could you ask for in a class?

AK: Tell us about the events you have raced in – particularly the Coastal Cup and Delta Ditch Run.

JC:  They really are very different types of racing.  I kind of get bored doing the same thing all the time, so I like to mix things up with some buoy racing, some ocean racing, and some long distance racing.  The Delta Ditch run is a lot of fun because it is all down wind (63 miles) and it gets warmer the closer you get to the finish line.

The Coastal Cup is a 350-mile downwind ocean race that takes a lot of commitment to complete.  There is a lot of preparation and planning that needs to take place before you even get to sail.  With the Express 27, we take the trailer down ahead of time so we can just trailer it home.  Once you are racing, there is no other race that is close to the level of fun you experience.  It is another all downwind race that typically includes winds from 10 – 30 knots.  Factor in the 10-15 foot waves and you have a recipe for some serious surfing.  It has been described as a 48-hour roller coaster ride that you cannot get off.  Every time I do this race, I get cramps in my cheeks from smiling so much.  We often see the speedo up in the high teens and even the low 20’s.  That is a lot of fun on a 27-foot boat.  And crossing the finish line right next to 40 and 50 foot boats just shows you how well the Express 27 performs in those conditions.

AK: You and Lance have known each other for a long time – tell us about your sailing together.

JC: Lance is great to sail with.  We are to the point now that we know what each other is going to do without even talking.  We seem to be a good fit for each other whether he is driving or I am driving.  I have been on boats where there is a lot of yelling and screaming during every point of the regatta, and that just is not fun to me.  Lance and I prefer to have fun and enjoy our time on the water.  Winning together is even better, but just being out there enjoying the competition is why we keep coming back.

Now that Lance is an owner of two boats, it gives us an opportunity to sail against one another.  This last weekend at the Harvest Day Regatta we got lucky and a few things went our way.  Next time I am sure we won’t be as fortunate and Lance will be on top. When you have such great talent in the fleet, as the S20 does, you just never know who is going to squeak out on top.  That is what is so great about the class and the fleet.

AK: This year you and your team won the Camellia Cup and most recently the Harvest Day Regatta – tell us about the events and your team at both regattas.

JC: Both regattas had one key factor that really played in my favor.  That is the fact that we had quite a bit of wind at both events.  I have had a lot of experience sailing my E27 on San Francisco bay in heavy air so I feel very comfortable doing so.  It really takes a lot of practice and concentration to keep the boat moving upwind in conditions like this. And downwind you have to almost anticipate what the boat is going to do with each puff and each wave.  If you wait to respond you will likely end up with the keel out of the water.

As far as my team goes, I had very different teams for each event.  At the Camellia cup I had my regular crew from the E27.  We have sailed together for almost ten years now and have a lot of fun doing so.  They couldn’t make the Harvest Day Regatta so I had to go searching for crew.  I somehow talked Sylvain Barrielle (owner of UK sails in SF) to come up with me, but still needed a foredeck.  Kim Magers volunteered to come out with us, not knowing what she was getting into.  She was great to have on board and I am really thankful she stepped up and sailed with us. 

AK: Having sailed with you, I know you are incredibly comfortable driving downwind when it is blowing and with big waves, how did you develop this skill and any advice to sailors on how to develop it?

JC: My experience with the several Coastal Cup races, and sailing on SF bay in heavy air has helped me gain confidence in sailing in heavy air conditions.  You really just have to know where the limits are for the boat you are sailing.  That and just spending a lot of time on the water is what makes you comfortable.  I would advise other sailors to try to travel to different regattas where you will see the different kind of conditions.  It will make you a more rounded sailor, and that added confidence will only help you in other situations as well.

AK: How does your S20 sailing schedule look like next year?

JC:  It is looking like I will go down and do the Schock Memorial Regatta with Lance and Patricia in March.  Then we will defend our title at the Camellia Cup in April.  I will be up in Eugene for the Memorial Day regatta and then back again in Eugene for the Nationals in July.

AK: Thank you Jason, it’s great to have you in the class.