The Robert Capita Interview
I had the great opportunity to interview Robert Capita from the USA Network show, THE MOMENT. He was selected to be on the show and fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a professional sailor. It was a pleasure talking with Robert and getting to know his background and what he’s been doing since the show aired earlier this year in April. Here’s our interview with Robert below:
Robert Capita Interview
R: Hello, Terry How are you?
T: Good, Good. How are you? Nice to meet you
R: Nice to meet you too.
T: First of all, thank you for taking some of your time to spend a few minutes with us. We appreciate it. So, tell me about your sailing experience. Feels like we know a lot about you from watching you on the show (USA’s show, “The Moment”). So tell me a little bit about your background.
R: Well you know, my Dad built a Rhodes 45 to win the 1960 Bermuda Race, so I was just thrown into the boat when I was born. And then when I was about 9 years old we lived in New Jersey and my father wanted me to go to some really good sailing programs. So we joined the American Yacht Club in Rye, New York and put me into that program there. I had guys like Dave Dallenbaugh who was my sailing coach. I had great opportunities there. I grew up sailing Dyer Dows, and then into Blue Jays, and then into Fireballs. It was the greatest bit of junior sailing that could be done on Long Island Sound. I had a great time with it all.
T: So what brought you to San Diego?
R: Later on, I moved to Australia for about six years. I had a Freres 41 that I decided to sail across the Pacific and ended up in San Diego. We wanted to be in some place that was close enough to the tropics and San Diego worked out just fine.
T: Did you do much sailing in San Diego prior to the show? It looked like or it appeared like they were grabbing you right out of the blue….like you hadn’t done any sailing in a long, long time.
R: Yeah, I didn’t sail a lot in San Diego. Living in La Mesa you are far enough away from the water you get down to do the odd weekend sailing, but it’s not like I am there every day. So I raced a Laser on Mission Bay. It’s one of the fun things I like to do. There’s a lot of good people who I get involved with in that fleet there. For about six years I taught sailing part time for J world. So I’ve been around doing all this sailing in the San Diego area. But, not enough that when they grabbed me to go race against the college kids at the Olympic Sailing Center in the Long Beach. They sail every day and they are young and fit. They threw me against them and ahhhhhh… that is a little bit different, you know?
T: Now, the dry sailing training that they put you through looked kinda cool.
R: Yeah, the land yachts! That was the most awesome part of the show! I think I want to go get one of those land yachts and go out to the desert. But, this time I think I would wear a full leather suit if I did it again!
T: That looked so cool! I couldn’t believe how fast you were going!
R: Yeah! Yeah! The one guy, I remember, when I got there, and you never knew where you were going and so they get me out to the desert , and I realize that I’ve got to sail this land yacht, and I look at the guy that I am going to sail against and I don’t think they showed him in the show and he was the west coast land yacht champion. He was all bruised up and scraped up and scars everywhere on his body. I was thinking, I hope that I have a leather suit or something to wear because I’m afraid of wiping out and looking like him. He told me that because the wind was coming at 90 degrees to the runway that we were sailing down, he told me that when you are going on a reach in these things, and you’ve got to tack, (do a 180 degree turn), he said you can’t do it slowly because if you do it slowly, you’re going to pretty much tip it over. So that was when I was hammering down the runway at about 35-40 mph, I spun the thing over so hard. I shut my eyes and that is when they cut to commercial. Noooo.
T: WOW! So was what we saw on the show very realistic of all the things that happened to you?
R: Oh, yeah. It was all put together very well and mostly realistic. It was a challenge. You couldn’t just step in there and make it easy for someone. They made it challenging for me.
T: So when you did the America’s Cup race at the end of the show, did you have a chance to practice at all? It looked
like on the show that they just threw you on the boat, and you had one race to determine if you were in or out for the job.
R: It was kind of like that. They did just throw me on the boat and gave me about one hour worth of practice and that was about it. I didn’t know anyone on the boat (the crew) from a bar of soap and they didn’t know anything about me. In fact they thought that I didn’t know how to sail. I made them quite nervous when I started doing match race maneuvers against the other boat in the pre start. The boats were very old, 1937 and 1938 12 Meters. Naturally, the owner and the people who were on board, the current captains, were very nervous as well.
T: Of course. Those were beautiful boats.
R: They are. Sea Scope Yacht Charters is a pretty unique business. Elizabeth Tiedemanndoes a beautiful job of taking care of those two 12 Meters plus the other boats we have in the fleet. It’s a lot of work. They are amazingly holding together pretty well for their age. I hope that when I am that age that I look as good as they are. Charter guests are always so impressed with the beauty of these classic yachts.
T: So, what is your life like right now? And, how has it changed?
R: Life has changed quite a bit. We’ve established new friends and connections out here on the East Coast that we didn’t have before. I have re-established some older connections. There are people that I haven’t seen for 25 or 30 years that I hadn’t sailed against. All the sudden, they pop up and say “Hey, how are you doing?” and I say “ Where have you been?” It’s nice to catch up with old friends and new friends and make great connections like…in the spring I was given the opportunity to do the sail testing with SpeedDream which makes the world’s fastest monohull project. That was really exciting! I also sailed on the MX Next which is a developmental boat for another really fast monohull design. Also, I have been given the opportunity to sail in the Bermuda race next year. So I’ve got a lot of great connections. Actually, our family just decided that we want to come back here next summer. That way we can do summers in Newport and winters in San Diego. I don’t think you can get any better than that.
T: Yeah! So, did this job (the job he got from the show) …did it end up being a full time job? Or just a summer job?
R: It is just a summer job. In the winter time, we put the boats away in a shed and there’s not a whole lot of work going on in the winter time. My contract was set up to sail through the end of September. I’m just about over with the season right now. In fact, the weather today just started to get a little bit cool so you know that winter’s on its way here.
T: So you have this business a charity that you have in California that your Father started
R: Yes. The Capita Foundation is a non-profit organization that funds medical research specializing for hearing. We actually fund a lot of the research that goes on up here in Boston at Mass Eye and Ear Institute. That another good thing that I am here (Newport, Connecticut). I am actually setting up a lot of things for fund raisers and things to help out people with hearing loss. So there have been great connections here for that as well. It’s (Capital Foundation) a big part of my life. I want to make sure that the funding is always there for the science because government funding isn’t quite as easy to come by anymore.
T: No it isn’t. So, what’s your goals for the future? What kinds of things do you want to do next besides the Bermuda race next year?
R: I think when I get back to San Diego I want start jumping on a Foiling Moth and doing some of that. I hope I get an invite. I am anxious to get back on my Laser of course. I am hoping to set up a match race with some J-5′s on San Diego Bay on February 8th. The spin on this race is that the spectators participate in the outcome of the event by bidding on auction items during the racing . So the spectators can be in charge of who wins. Proceeds will go to Capita Foundation.
T: Thanks Robert. Hopefully we can meet in person and sail with each other in San Diego.
R: Great thanks Terry. It was nice meeting you and great talking with you. Would love sail with you in San Diego sometime.
Here’s a video of Robert taking a test drive on SpeedDream27.