Tyler Champt’s day job consists of managing Cherry Republic’s wholesale business — other retailers that carry Cherry Republic products in their stores — as well as overseeing the company’s corporate gifting sales. But after 5 and on weekends, you are almost certain to find Tyler on the deck of his sail boat, along with wife Natasha and dog Winston, navigating the waters of Grand Traverse Bay. We recently caught up with Tyler and asked him what sparked his love of sailing.
When did you first become interested in sailing? Was it an immediate passion for you?
My Dad was a merchant mariner from Belgium and he sailed all over the world, and when he finally landed in Northern Michigan I did not have much choice but to become a sailor too! Since I can remember, I have been on the water sailing. In high school and college I worked full time as a professional sailor on Schooner Inland Seas and Schooner Alabama during the summer months. My real passion for it came in those years when I gained a deep understanding of the environment as well as the power of both the wind and sea. I appreciate every moment on the water. Now sailing is a one-shop-stop for my soul.
Sailing is a one-stop-shop for the soul.
When did you buy your first boat and what kind of boat is it?
My dad and I managed to buy a Flying Junior 16’ one-design race boat. It was on a trailer and we sailed it on Boardman Lake and Grand Traverse Bay on weeknights and weekends. It’s when I really learned how to sail, and I was about 8.
What’s your current relationship with sailing? Would you call it more of a casual weekend pursuit or do you consider yourself a serious sailor?
Sailing has become part of my identity over the years, and I consider myself a serious sailor in the sense I commit a lot of time and energy to it. I roughly think I have sailed on 40+ boats in many different parts of the country since I was 2. Currently I sail competitively on a Farr 395 Old School, live on my wife’s and my O’Day 35 sailboat in the summer, fill in as a charter/delivery captain on the weekends, and often find myself on the water more days than not all summer long. The best part is that in the winters I get to work on boats — including a restoration of Pearson Commander 26 from 1967.
Do you have a set crew you sail with?
Anyone who brings ice, cocktails and/or a good attitude! But all joking aside, the sailing community in Northern Michigan is awesome and we all pitch in to help each other. I consider them all my crew and myself theirs.
What have been your most interesting and exciting sailing experiences?
Holy moly, the best part about sailing is that it’s never the same, every outing is unique and has the potential to be exciting. If I had to pick, I would say delivering a boat from Miami to New York City via the Gulf Stream. It was the wildest and most fun trip I have been on. Left Miami mid-day on a 1964 Pearson Invicta and arrived 12 days later in New York.
Battled Cape Hatteras with gusts up to 65 mph, crossed through a U.S. destroyer firing practice off of Virginia, and played frogger with fishing vessels off the New Jersey coast.
In that time we set a one-day distance record for that boat, broke the hydraulic back stay and roller furling extrusions (not good). Sailed one day on the Intercoastal for repairs, battled Cape Hatteras with gusts up to 65 mph, crossed through a U.S. destroyer firing practice off of Virginia, and played frogger with fishing vessels off the New Jersey coast. The best part was being out of my comfort zone, spending time with friends and overcoming new challenges.
Is sailing something you could see yourself pursuing full-time someday?
I did sail full time for a while and what I found is that my passion became work, and I just didn’t care for that so I don’t think I’ll ever go back. I do have my 100-ton master license and ASA104, which open up opportunities for me to do more of what I love — but not as a career.
Anything else you would like to share?
If you have never been sailing before, get out there. Most likely it’s different than you imagine, once the wind catches the sails and the vessel glides silently over the water you may be surprised as to where your mind and body go and what you discover.