ED note: The following interview was conducted with Judy at Long Beach Yacht Club. I believe this interview was conducted by past National Champion Art Melendres of One Time. We are looking forward to having Judy on board the RC boat for the 2009 Nationals!
FC When did you first get involved with Fleet V and Cal 25 racing?
Judy My husband and I purchased our first Cal 25 in 1965. Before that we owned and raced a Cal 20. We named our Cal 25 “The Odyssey.” Our dinghy was named “The Iliad.” My husband’s name was Homer. What’s your best guess on why we chose those names?
FC What was the Fleet like in 1965?
Judy There were a lot more owners back then. The boat was new and pretty much state of the art for the times. Our races normally had twenty-five boats on the line. The emphasis was more on participation back then as opposed to now. There were a lot of husband and wife teams on the water. There was also a lot of cruising going on. People routinely took their boats to San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc. Many times we’d go down to San Diego just so we could get in a race. I think now there’s probably too much emphasis on winning. We were a bit more relaxed in 1965. Once we even brought a priest down to the dock and he blessed all of our boats.
FC What was the racing like?
Judy. About the same as today except probably a bit more relaxed. There wasn’t as much emphasis on winning as there seems to be nowadays. Back then there was more emphasis on just getting together and doing some racing. However, I remember one day my husband and I were racing and we had our two girls on board. They were two and three years old at the time. The only two adults on the boat were my husband and I. Anyway, we had a port /starboard situation in the making and our boat was heeled way over. I had one hand on the sheet and one hand on the kids making sure they didn’t fall off the boat. I told my husband to ease the sheet and he refused, stating that he had rights on the other boat. In the finally analysis that situation got resolved in my favor. It wasn’t too long after that they I started doing Race Committee work.
FC When did you start doing Race Committee?
Judy I started in 1966. I’ve stayed with it ever since. I’m commonly known as being a member of the “A” team. It’s wonderful work and it allows me to stay in touch with sailing. The only times that I’ve missed a race is when I’m traveling or just too sick to go out. I really enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite things to do.
FC Who are some of your favorite PROs and fellow committee members?
Judy There are a lot of good ones and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling by not mentioning them. However some of my favorites over the years have been Barney Flam, Mike Van Dyke, Don Warner and John Busch. All of them are so easy to work with. They seem to get calmer as the tension rises. To argue with Barney Flam is like arguing with God. You’re going to lose.
If you’re asking me for my favorite committee members then I would have to say that it would be tough to beat Mary Beth Ives and Camille Daniels. They’re true ladies and very competent.
FC What’s your proudest moment as a Race Committee member?
Judy That’s easy. In 1971 I was on RC for the Congressional Cup. In those days we didn’t use flags. We used big red cones. Well right during a starting sequence a male committee member dropped the red cone in the water. Normally a mistake like that would have caused all kinds of chaos and yelling. Anyway, I recognized the problem and noted that another committee member was wearing a red shirt. I told him to take his shirt off quickly. He did but probably didn’t know why. I then attached his shirt to the end of a pole and dipped it just as if we had had the cone. Nobody even noticed the difference. I always felt that my knowledge of the rules and experience as a RC member provided the training for me to resolve that problem.
FC Why have you chosen to remain as a member of Fleet V?
Judy I love the people. The Cal 25 group is always pulling together and looking out for each other. They’re a great bunch of folks and I enjoy being one of them. Our Cal 25 was such a source of joy for my family and me that staying as a member of the Fleet allows me to maintain those memories.
FC What else do you enjoy besides staying close to sailing?
Judy I love to travel. I try to get to Europe and Asia as often as I can. Once I was in Bethlehem at Christmas. It was snowing. Just being there in the snow during Christmas was an awesome, uplifting experience. Spain and Italy have also been great. Standing in the middle of Red Square was thrilling. It brought back memories of my ancestry (Ukrainian). I backpacked in the Italian Alps and even considered running with the bulls in Pamplona. It‘s all been so wonderful. I hope to continue to travel as long as I’m able.
FC How long do you think you’ll keep doing Race Committee work?
Judy Until the day comes that I can no longer climb to the flying bridge of the Loynes.
FC I hope that day is a long way in coming.
Conclusion Notes Judy Johnson was recently LBYC’s nominee for the prestigious Peggy Slater award. This award is a Southern California Yachting Association Award presented to a woman who has made great contributions to the sport of sailing. Just to be a nominee is a great honor. Judy didn’t win it. Perhaps next time. Nonetheless, she remains a woman who has made great contributions to the sport of sailing. Sailing has enriched her life and her presence has enriched ours.