Tom Curtis admits he's competitive by nature, but aside from runningtrack in high school, he never took part in competitive sports.
Never, that is, until one fateful day in 1979, when the Arnold man boarded neighbor Bill Weisburger's Peterson 34 for a race in the MagothyRiver.
It was love at first bite.
"I got on Bill's boat and it was like -- Whoa! I like this," Curtis said. "This is both fun and competition. I jumped into the sport with both feet."
Within two years he had purchased his own boat -- an Olson 30, which, like his current Olson 34, bore the name Pegasus -- and began his own campaigns on the river and the bay.
Curtis was equally quick to get involved in the organization of racing, first through the Magothy River Sailing Association, in which he has served in several roles, including vice commodore. He then joined the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association, after he was recruited by fellow river sailor Darden Nelms to be Region II vice president in 1983.
"Getting involved with CBYRA was a fairly natural thing," Curtis said. "Right from the start I was interested in things like race management as well as the racing itself."
After a number of years of involvement with CBYRA, Curtis became its president at last month's annual meeting.
As with all his previous jobs, Curtis brings the same can-do energy and perseverance that has served him well on the race course, particularly over the long haul indistance competitions, such as the Cedar Point Race -- a grueling event he has won twice.
"I like those long-distance races to nowhereand back," Curtis said. "I seem to do well at them, probably becauseI'm tenacious."
Curtis is a hard-core type, who seldom misses a frostbite race, no matter how bad the weather.
A professional land surveyor and a partner in the Landover engineering firm of Ben Dyer &Associates Inc., Curtis has also been putting in long hours eveningsand weekends at CBYRA and other sailing pursuits for several years, and has been an instrumental part of the team that salvaged CBYRA from financial woes three years ago.
As president, Curtis said his biggest goal for 1992 is "to open some of the lines of communication that haven't been open for years."
To start with, he has instituted the new Open Sailors' Forum, set for Feb. 7, which he believes is an important chance for racers to air their complaints, make suggestionsand share ideas on how CBYRA can help improve the quality of sailboat racing on the bay.
"Obviously the sport is going to change," Curtis said. "It seems to be in a state of flux right now, and it's important to find out what people want."
Curtis, also a member of Annapolis Yacht Club, hopes to improve communication between the member yacht clubs themselves, as well as between individual sailors, the clubs and CBYRA.
He says some friction has occurred between organizations when new regattas have appeared on the annual racing schedule inconflict with long-established events produced by other clubs.
Another continuing area of concern for Curtis and his fellow CBYRA officers is the flagging one-design division.
"We're going to continuewith the Olympic Classes Regatta in May, and we're going to try to get together with the one-design fleet representatives so we can all sit down and discuss what their needs might be, Curtis said.
To boost CBYRA's involvement with small-boat, one-design sailing, Curtis said CBYRA's monthly newsletter, The Traveler, will institute a featurehighlighting a different one-design class in each issue.
"It willgive them each a chance to blow their own horns," Curtis said. "There's a lot CBYRA can do to enhance and support these classes. One thing we're going to start doing is targeting the sailing schools, to letnew sailors know that these classes are out there, and that it's a good way to get into sailing."
Curtis expects CBYRA to take a more active role in junior sailing, too.
"Financially, over the past three years the organization is to the point where it's stable now," hesaid. "So one thing we're looking to do is to throw more money at the junior program, which is definitely in keeping with our educationalgoals.
"For example, maybe we can put together a Chesapeake Bay junior team trailer, so junior sailors can travel together as a team. There are some extra supporting things we should be doing."
Curtisbelieves that the time is ripe for an added emphasis on junior sailing.
"A lot of people delayed having children, and now they're going to be hitting us in big numbers. We need to deal with that."
As the father of a 5-year-old who sails with him occasionally, Curtis has a good understanding of many junior-sailing goals, although he admits it is still too early to tell whether his son will share his nautical interest.
As for his personal 1992 sailing season, Curtis is optimistic.
"My crew has been with me for three years now, and we're starting to do better, to know how to sail the boat well. My sail inventory is complete with good sails now, so that pressure's off. Andthis year we're going to put a lot more into preparation than we've been able to do before, really do the bottom, all of that, so I thinkthings are looking up for this year."
Clearly, CBYRA sailors can expect good results from Curtis in the coming months, both on the race course and ashore in his new leadership role.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears everyWednesday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.