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On Watch - Sam Crichton

Sam CrichtonAn event management consultant who lives in Newport, Rhode Island, Samantha Crichton grew up on her family’s 55,000-acre station (ranch) in the Australian Outback, a long, long way from the City by the Sea and the world of sailing.

© Meghan Sepe/meghansepe.com

“Growing up in the Outback was a bit different to a childhood in a city or suburban area,” Sam explains. “My younger sisters Luci and Vikki and I were homeschooled due to being isolated from a bus route or a ‘regular’ school. We had three teachers: a School of the Air teacher we’d speak with on a VHF radio for a half hour Monday through Friday, a teacher at home, which in our case was our mother, and a correspondence teacher in Brisbane who we sent our completed ‘correspondence papers’ to each week. We rarely met our Brisbane teacher face to face, and we’d only see our School of the Air teacher if we went to town, town being Charleville.”

“On a typical day, once we had done our different subjects we would feed ‘poddy’ (orphan) animals. We had to feed them twice a day before and after school and help out with mustering, cattle work or shearing, and then we could ride our motorbikes and horses. We had chores like feeding the chickens, dogs and cats, and I thought most kids had this type of life…little did I know!”

“An average summer day would hit 40°C (104°F), but it was a dry heat that required working very early in the morning and later in the day. One thing I will always take away from that lifestyle is the value of water!! A lot of the time we were in drought conditions, and seeing animals dying because they don’t have water is an enormous life lesson. Now, I have a hard time leaving a location where I can see water or be very close to it.”   

“At 11, I went to boarding school in Toowoomba in Queensland, and had a chance to ‘muck around’ in a Sabot on a lake. When we went on summer holidays to the coast we’d sail on catamarans, which was a bit of an adventure for a kid more accustomed to motorbikes and horses. I was the typical Australian traveler, and was heading to London from New York when I ended up in Newport by accident! On my return to Sydney, I was part of the management team for the Sailing venue at the Sydney Olympics and Paralympics. I was approached by the State sailing authority to run another event for the Olympic classes, the Sydney International Regatta. I started doing some twilight racing out of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, and things went from there.”

Sam has served as the Director of Sailing at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, run the Farr 40 Class races at the Australian Championships, and worked with the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. “Most of my years working on sailing events have been in either an organization and/or management role or in the media side of things,” she says. “Anything from crew weigh-ins and measuring sails and coordinating the trophies and parties to making sure media representatives have all they need to write and promote the regatta or class. Once I had visited Newport, I was always keen to return. Newport can draw you in very easily, and I have made lifelong friends here over the years. I put it down to fate!”

Those many friends include the organizers and sailors of the C. Thomas Clagett, Jr. Memorial Clinic & Regatta, a US Sailing-sanctioned race training event for sailors with disabilities hosted by Sail Newport and sailed in the Paralympic classes. “I became involved with The Clagett through [co-founder] Stephanie McLennan,” says Sam. “She and I spoke about assisting with organizing the dock, and after a couple years Stephanie’s mother Judy McLennan approached me about working on the media and PR and then the annual fundraiser. Working with Judy, Stephanie and The Clagett team makes you appreciate every day for what it is and what you have. It is truly inspirational!”  

“I work with a number of clients on both sailing and non-sailing events, including a local company that organizes craft beer festivals. That makes some friends laugh, as I don’t drink beer. We also organize road races – 5k, 10k, 10-mile, half-marathons and full marathons in a number of New England locations. It has been a great way to see a whole lot more of the Northeast and meet some fantastic people.” 

“I think the biggest thing about sailing in Rhode Island is the variety of sailing you can do. My personal sailing was always racing in some form, but it’s been a while since I have sailed competitively. It mostly is for pleasure for me now, but you never know! If I was to go cruising, there are too many places to name that I’d like to explore. The Med, the Caribbean, the Northeast and Northwest coasts of the U.S., and Scandinavia are just a few.”

“Outside of sailing, I love to ski (I recently took it up again after a number of years) and ride horses. I enjoy traveling, historic architecture and interior decorating. I love working with animals and have been known to ‘borrow’ friends’ dogs and step in for the occasional cat sitting session. I’d also love to explore a number of parts of the world by motorcycle one day.” 

“I’ve had the privilege of knowing many accomplished sailors from Olympians and Paralympians to America’s Cup, World Champion and Volvo Ocean Race sailors, and the one thing we all have in common is the love of the sport and all that it offers,” says Sam, who says the appeal of sailing can be summed up in two words: “Water and freedom!”


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