WOMEN AT THE HELM – KERRY KLEIN – USVI - ALL AT SEA - JUNE 2005
By – Nancy Terrell
I first met Kerry Klein when she demonstrated her helming skills during the Willy T’s Virgin’s Cup Race at Norman Island, BVI. She was beautifully blonde, tan and could race like the pro that she is today. I was fascinated, as I always am with women who wear many hats within our industry, and knew at the time that I wanted to get to know her. That opportunity arose during the BVI Spring Regatta this year when she helped call the shots for #1 Racing – Magnificent 7 – John Foster’s J- 27 on which Kerry has crewed for two racing seasons.
Kerry hails from a sailing family. Her mother, Heather, and Louise Holmberg were the first women sunfish racers in the Virgin Islands. Ken, Kerry’s father, represented the USVI in both the ’67 Pre Olympic Trials at Mexico City and in ’72 Olympics at Kiel, Germany. Brother Kenny won the gold at the Caribbean and Central American Games in Cuba in windsurfing in ’82 – sounds like it’s in the genes to me. However, there is something well learned and synchronized in Kerry that many racers do not have – she “feels the wind”.
Sitting beneath the old tamarind trees that line the Nanny Cay Marina pool she tells me, “By learning to call the waves and wind you keep the entire crew focused. You have to stay ‘tuned in’ every second during a race to win. By calling the wind continuously during the race everyone remains in a total state of concentration. The results show for themselves.”
Not one to lean on her laurels Kerry is highly trained. A St. Thomas native, she swam competitively as a child. She majored in Geology & Marine Biology at the University of Florida and went on to receive her MS at the Oceanographic Institute in Ft. Lauderdale. During this time she would race J-24s on an all woman’s team. She worked as an environmental analyst for West Palm Beach County for five years before she tore all of her low back ligaments. This injury was long and painful but it brought her back to St Thomas in 1992.
Kerry holds a USCG 100 ton Masters License and has been captain of her own daysail 42’ ketch, Salt Whistle, for the past ten years. She also crewed on the classic J boat, Shamrock (120’) and other large yachts as well as captaining numerous yachts throughout the Caribbean. She started racing “the circuit” in ’99 on Magnificent 7 before transferring to CORT winner, Mermaid, where she assisted Mark Ploch for four years. In 2003 she raced on the winning, Mistress Quickly with Guy Eldridge, from the BVI, before returning to Magnificent 7 this year. All of Kerry’s boats are winners and all have greatly benefited by having her aboard.
Not one to miss an opportunity, Kerry has definitive plans for her future. She ends our delightful conversation by telling me, “I plan to truly settle into the Virgin Islands by establishing a new land based career in real estate, which I enjoy. I would also like to become more involved in the "land" based community. I will still continually work to expand my knowledge and commitment to racing on the water. It's one of those beautiful sports that is always challenging. You can do it an entire lifetime, and truly never
master it ~ all the while enjoying every minute". If Kerry’s future plans follow her past successes there is no reason not to believe that she will greatly improve the quality of life for those who deal with her on both land and water. Go girl Go – I wish you the best!