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The Director of Institutional Sales at Zim Sailing in Bristol, Rhode Island, Bob Adam is an enthusiastic one-design racer who relishes sailing with his family…and an all-around great guy.

“I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, which is pretty landlocked,” says Bob, who lives in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. “Our family were members of the Quannapowitt Yacht Club in Wakefield, Mass, where I began sailing at an age too young to remember. There are photos of me steering our Cape Cod Mercury when I was around 5, and others when I was a tad older riding the wire on our International 110.”

“My first boat was a 110 that I purchased at 15 with money from my paper route. I bought an Interclub Dinghy a few years later to frostbite in Marblehead. My mom and I went to the bank to withdraw the $1,500 only to find out she didn’t have enough money in her account. To this day I think I was being set up to pay for it myself!!!”

“I did not participate in junior sailing and had limited structured coaching. My development came by sailing as much as I could and reading books and magazines. I will forever call Jack Slattery and Jud Smith my mentors. Jud and I worked long hours building sails at the Shore Sails loft he owned in Beverly, Mass, then spend even more hours testing them. Jack and I had a very similar ‘seat of the pants’ sailing style, and spent many hours debriefing over a beer and chips.”

Bob earned a BS in Marketing and Economics at Salem State University, where as a member of the Sailing team he was coached by the legendary Joe Duplin. “Joe’s legend had long been established before he had to deal with my massive ego. He was hard on me, and laid down expectations that I had to meet or feel the wrath. Joe was a bit of a “football” coach and provided a lasting impression. My favorite line from him as he pushed me off the dock was, ‘Don’t bother coming back to this spot if you don’t win!’ I’m convinced that as he turned his back while I sailed away, a broad smile crossed his face. Joe led us from the abyss to the 11th ranked team in the country in my senior year. It was a special opportunity to be coached by a Hall of Famer!!!”

“The 110 holds a special place in my heart. From boat prep to the technical aspects, it taught me so much. I always looked at the 110 as a Flying Dutchman with a keel. It had very similar controls to include mast bend, rake, mast step location, launcher tube for the spinnaker, and shrouds on tracks. Each hull was a bit different, so each boat required specific tuning. I was fortunate that as I improved so did my level of crews. This allowed me to learn from amazing sailors like Ben Cesare, Chris Hufstader, Ted Keenan and many others. Because the boat was so responsive to tuning, I could sail on the light side and spent the last few years of 110 sailing with my wife Stephanie, who was my college crew.”

“I joined Steve Perry at Zim in 2010 after my time at Vanguard Sailboats. Steve had started Zim a year and a half earlier and was building a great C420 and distributing an Opti but needed a sales guy. I held the distinctive title of VP of Sales, which was funny as I was the sales team. After the company sold in 2021, I became the Director of Institutional Sales but my day-to-day role did not change.”

“My team comprises Adam Werblow and John Vandemoer. We handle all the fleet sales including yacht clubs, community sailing programs, high schools and colleges. Adam is the head coach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and moonlights as our college and high school consultant. John lives in San Francisco and is our California rep. We specialize in being consultants to programs – we’re as passionate about helping them sell their old boats or buy used ones as we are about selling new boats. Zim employs over forty people including management, sales, operations and production. It’s an amazing team that makes the front facing team look good.”

Bob observes that he’s no longer the road warrior he was during Zim’s early days. “I’ve narrowed my road focus down to supporting Opti regattas with charters, parts and gear. This fits me well, as I’m passionate about the base. We support nearly every USODA event across the country, and we drive by ‘Pedro’ at South of the Border quite a bit. Folks think we drive from event to event, but we actually stage our equipment at the next event and fly in and out, thus the air miles are plentiful and the truck and trailer are always close to the next event. We hire drivers for cross-country trips or other long hauls. Our Opti trailer departs each fall for the winter swing and returns in the spring, and we replenish the trailer after each event to keep it stocked.”

Among Zim Sailing’s newest initiatives is their Regional Roundtable series. “The Zim Regional Roundtables stem from the amazing experience we had attending and sponsoring US Sailing regional symposiums around the country for many years,” Bob explains. “The idea is to take ideas from the USS National Sailing Program Symposium and Leadership Forums back to local programs that may not have had the ability to attend the national conferences. After COVID, USS terminated the regional symposiums and we felt this left a void that we could help fill. This year our marketing department, led by Josh Toso, put together Regional Roundtables at select locations across the country to discuss topics that are important to that specific region. Our role is to facilitate the discussion to help move the region forward. We had over 300 attendees last fall and this spring, and look forward to starting them back up in the fall.”

“Participation in junior sailing (Opti, ILCA, C420, I420 and 29er) is alive and well. I’m often asked, ‘What boat should my child sail after Optis?’ My response is a resounding, ‘Whatever will put a smile on their face!’ In my youth, I didn’t care what boat I sailed on or whether I skippered or crewed. I rode my bike forty miles a day to the lake so I could go sailing. That passion led to my success. I believe too many youth sailors are focused on the outcome versus the path; striving to ‘qualify’ for an event
that’s typically just another regatta.”

“High school sailing is perhaps the fastest growing segment in sailing. Schools are doing an amazing job exposing kids that wouldn’t otherwise sail, and any of these athletes matriculate to college sailing. The largest misconception in junior sailing is that colleges offer sailing scholarships. This is not the case. High school sailors can get merit aid, so hit the books!!! Another misconception is that they aren’t ‘good enough’ to sail in college. Not true. College coaches will take athletes with a great attitude and ability to learn. High school sailors can follow their passion.”

“I am thrilled to work with a company that understands the importance of high school and college sailing and it is shown through our partnerships with ISSA and ICSA. Like the other segments, college sailing is alive and well, with several national championships which test a wide variety of skills. Programs range from large budget varsity to self-funded clubs. If you want to sail in college, there’s a program that fits your need. Reach out to the coach via email, line up for a visit and determine if there is synergy with the school, team and coach.”

“So-called ‘Adventure’ sailing within programs began about fifteen years ago, stemming from programs feeling too much focus was being placed on racing and that kids were being burnt out. The programming has evolved over time, and boats like the RS Quest, RS Zest, Hobie Wave, O‘Pen Skiff and others have proven to keep kids enthusiastic about going sailing. These boats are roto-molded, with the durability to let them ‘rip’ around without inflicting damage.”

“Stephanie and I first sailed a Snipe at the 2021 North Americans in our son’s boat, as he was coaching that weekend. Since it was at the Jubilee Yacht Club in Beverly, we thought it would be fun to see some old friends. We had a blast, even though we constantly watched the fleet sail away from us. We were hooked and bought a boat the next year. We were drawn to the Snipe for a few reasons. Since our son, Bradley, lived in Annapolis we felt we’d see him more if we went to the same regattas. We also loved the fact that the fleet age range was youth, college, post-college and seasoned veterans. The class motto is “serious sailing and serious fun,” and they are spot-on. The sharing of knowledge after racing brings me back to my youth. Our learning curve remains vertical despite our successes. 2023 was a good year for us, with fourth at Masters Nationals, ninth at US Nationals, and second at the famed Quassy Regatta. We are working hard to practice what we preach, which is to Have Fun! Learn something and let everything else fall into place.”

“Now that we have adult children, I’m most proud of the fact that they enjoy having us around and that sailing and skiing are focal points in our family. Our daughter Grace works for Capital One in Boston and makes the trip to Newport each Wednesday night to steer a Shields. It’s an honor to crew for her each week. Shields Fleet 9 is one of the most competitive one-design fleets in the country, with 25 or 30 boats on the line every week, each stacked with amazing talent. Our learning curve is steep, and we finished twelfth for the season last year and won the Most Improved trophy. Grace won Top Junior Skipper in the 2022 Nationals, and I was proud to be on the team.”

“Bradley is the assistant sailing coach at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and it’s been nothing short of amazing to compete against him on the Snipe. He’s become my private coach. We will line up before the first race, and he’s sure to tell me all the things I’m doing wrong. Last summer, he won the last race at the Colonial Cup and Stephanie and I managed third. I cannot put into words how thrilled we were. We then went on to sail the Nationals and finished eighth and ninth, with him gaining the 2-point advantage. Snipe sailing has allowed me to make new friends and work to mentor others, and I hope they will benefit from my experiences.”

“Racing sailboats is unlike any other sport, where the least experienced sailor can sail against the best and directly learn from them. It has a level playing field where gender doesn’t matter. It teaches teamwork and leadership. Lastly, it provides friends for life!” ■

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