Sailor Spotlight: Mark Beaton
Mark Beaton is a sailing professional on Barnegat Bay. Mark has built wooden boats, designed sails, and provided service for many sailors in our area. Mark has not only sailed many classes of boats, but he's also won in many classes of boats. Two things strike me as interesting in this interview: the first is that Mark grew up sailing many boats with all different people. Learning to sail different boats makes you a versatile sailor. My second takeaway is that you should never say no if a good sailor asks you to sail. You always want to be learning and improving.
Mark is a stand-up guy, a fantastic sailor, and a huge part of sailing on Barnegat Bay!
Name: Mark Beaton
Age: 61 years old
Yacht Club: I grew up at Metedeconk River YC, I'm currently a member of Mantoloking YC
School: Point Pleasant High School, 1975
1) Mark, you've been sailing on Barnegat Bay your whole life. Give me some backdrop on what your junior years are like and what you sail now. I grew up sailing at Metedeconk River Yacht Club. The beginner boat back then was the Sunfish. After one year in lessons, my parents bought me a new Sunfish which was very exciting! In addition to sailing my boat in lessons and racing it in the Wednsday junior series, I would race it with the adults on Sundays. After the Sunfish I moved to the Blue Jay followed by the M Scow, sailing each on Saturdays in the BBYRA and on Sundays at MRYC.
During my time as a junior I always sailed with and against the senior sailors at MRYC and on the Bay. I believe this cross generational experience really contributed to my becoming a life long sailor/racer.
After sailing a wide variety of boats (Lightning, Comet, E Scow, Flying Scot) I recently got an MC Scow. After several years of crewing with friends and customers it has been really fun to get back on the tiller. The MC is a versatile boat. Using the M Scow hull and with a single sail on a flexible rig, it can be sailed singlehanded or with crew.
2) At Beaton Brothers, you guys are in the sail-making business and also work on wooden boats. What's business like? What are some of the projects you work on? What are you most passionate about in your job? I started Beaton Sails in 1988 renting space from my family's business, David Beaton and Sons. The boatyard was started back in the 1930's by my grandfather. They built a variety of racing one-designs in wood; Penguins, Lightnings, Comets, Sneakboxes, Duckboats and several other boats were built there to a very high standard. I've provided sail repair services and new sails to quite a few of the Boatyard's customers over the years. Using the Omega Performance Sails label we've made winning sails in Sandpipers, A Cats, E and M Scows, Comets, Flying Scots, Mariners and Optimists. It's always really great when one of our customers does well. Helping sailors improve is probably the part of my job I find most rewarding.
3) This summer you won a hotly contested Sandpiper Nationals at Mantoloking Yacht Club. This looked to be an incredibly competitive regatta. Tell me about the win. Have you sailed the Sandpiper a lot in your life?
I build quite a few Sandpiper sails every year and decided it would be fun to sail in the Nationals. The Sandpiper Class requires that skippers be boat owners. I went to craigslist and found a boat for sale in Annapolis, Md. After having my offer accepted, Mark Lewis generously offered to pick up the boat on his way up from Washington DC where he lives. I was pleasantly surprised at the good condition of the boat. It was totally original and very well cared for. I replaced all the lines on the boat, some of the blocks, and Iinstalled cleats for the halyards to allow adjustment while racing. I also installed a mainsheet cleat with a swivel on the centerboard trunk and a hiking stick.
4) By winning the Sandpiper Nationals, you qualified for the Championship of Champions regatta. This is a US Sailing run event and it collects National Champions from many different classes to face off. The regatta was last weekend in Atlanta in the Y Flyer. How was the event? Have you ever sailed a Y Flyer before? What's it like to even be at such a prestigious event? I was actually fortunate enough to sail the US Sailing Championship of Champions 30 years ago. Linda Taboada and I represented the Comet Class. It was sailed in Snipes in Annapolis, Md. We were able to place third in a fleet heavy with current and past Snipe sailors. I consider that event one of the highlights of my sailing career.
This year's event was hosted by Atlanta Yacht Club on Lake Allatoona. The C of Cs is a really fun regatta. We got to meet great sailors from all over the country, and the host club members couldn't have been nicer. The lake is relatively small and the wind was very shifty with big changes in velocity. It wasn't unusual to have a 20 degree shift come in with pressure and have it last the whole leg. If you were on the good side of it, you were gold. Russ Lucas sailed with me and neither one of us had ever seen a Y Flyer before. It is an 18' scow with chines, a single rudder, and a centerboard, unlike our scows which have twin rudders and bilgeboards. It's is a fun boat to sail. The Y Flyer is lively, maneuverable and planes easily.
We finished tenth overall and agree it was totally worth going!
5) You've sailed with a lot of people in your life and you have a very impressive track record. What are some things that you think are important to bring to a program to have it be successful? I have been lucky to grow up sailing at Metedeconk River Yacht Club. MRYC is home to a talented group of Lightning sailors and that was true back when I was a young guy. I crewed with many great sailors over that time including Jim Carson, Jay and Jody Lutz, Bill Shore, Dave Curtis, Greg and Matt Fisher. The things that I probably take away from that time that have helped the most were not necessarily the techniques these guys employed. What has stuck with me is the intense focus and generally calm demeanor they brought on board.
I've tried to bring those same qualities with me whenever I've joined a team.
Sometimes I'll sail with a customer and provide coaching. I try to work on sail trim with the crew and steering with the skipper. At the same time, I believe it is important to tread lightly, offering suggestions in a diplomatic fashion. I'm on board to teach, not take over.
I've sailed a wide variety of boats from small dinghies to keel boats. Those experiences have helped me become a more versatile sailor.
My last word is to say yes. When someone you respect asks you to sail with them always say yes. The experience you gain sailing with good people is priceless.