When people ask me how I started sailing, I have three set answers. The default for non-sailors: “My parents took me out on their first sailboat when I was 10 days old.” The second (when a listener is actually curious about my competitive beginnings): “I sailed my first race at age 10 with a guy named Bobby Bigelow.”
I only pull out the third answer if they are really asking, “What inspired you to go to the Olympics?” Then the response has to be: “I crewed for Ed Adams.”
This past weekend, Ed was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. I’m proud to say I nominated him, because he is the hardest-working and most intense racing sailor I know. That incredible work ethic (which has been called “annoying”, a fact Ed noted in his acceptance speech) has earned him several world titles as both sailor and coach.
Ed surprised me with an invite to the Hall of Fame celebrations, along with his Gold Star crew Tom Olsen. Tom and his wife Liz and I all sailed for Connecticut College, so in between applauding Ed (and the 12 other equally deserving inductees), we reminisced about past antics and caught up on current life events.
Midway through a wonderful weekend, I thanked Tom (again) for his excellent advice about my first phone call to Ed. In January 1990, when I’d asked Tom how to get back into competitive sailing, he instructed me to call Ed—and to lie about my short stature. Years later, Ed confirmed that if I’d told the truth, he would’ve hung up immediately. (He even acknowledged my fib in his acceptance speech, when he thanked his Snipe crew—“even if she was too short.”)
Looking back, I feel like I spent the last decade of the 20th century driving to regattas with Ed. Road trips with him were dominated by an intense discussion about how to make whatever slow boat we were sailing just 1 percent faster… which is, perhaps, why I remember an exception so well. Heading to Boston to sail Interclubs on a wintry Sunday morning quite early in 2000, I was picking Ed’s brain about how to join the next Olympic cycle. Ed asked, in his blunt way: “So, are you gonna go to the Olympics or are you gonna have kids? Because you can’t do both.” I was too shocked to give a definitive reply; “Um, can I get back to you on that?” It’s only in hindsight that I can see what an important question it was—and one that only he had the nerve to ask.
In 2015, Sailing World editor Dave Reed talked me into writing a profile of Ed. The result was a well-received story that also made me realize how much I love writing profiles. So again in hindsight, I can trace some of my Seahorse success back to Ed as well. Five years later, Fast Eddy and the Big Lie still rings true: as I put it then, “He pushes limits, both his own and other people’s.”
I didn’t realize it in 1990, but earning the right to be Ed’s teammate was as critical to my sailing origin story as that first family sail or Bobby Bigelow’s early instructions. So thanks Ed for all the incredible memories, and congratulations once again for this latest and well-deserved recognition. May your passion and your work ethic continue to inspire future Olympians—even as they annoy everyone else.
And thanks also to Tom (and Liz) Olsen for a lifetime of friendship—especially that great advice to tell a small lie that would lead to such a big life.