2017-04-13 / News

Czech businessman learning the ropes

BY RYAN GIBBS


Czech sailor Jan Trousilek at his new store on Narragansett Avenue, which offers yachting lines from a manufacturer in his homeland. 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Czech sailor Jan Trousilek at his new store on Narragansett Avenue, which offers yachting lines from a manufacturer in his homeland. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN A native Czech who immigrated to America as a political refugee a half century ago is setting up shop with an emphasis on Jamestown’s most popular pastime — sailing.

Jan Trousilek is introducing a line of European yachting ropes to the United States at his new shop, Sensible Yachting Cordage, which will open this month at 123 Narragansett Ave., the same building that houses Ocean Essence Spa. The shop will offer yachting ropes and lines manufactured by Lanex, a company headquartered in Trousilek’s homeland.

The seeds were sown during Trousilek’s trip to a yacht club in his native Prague. After meeting a man there who was raving about Lanex’s product, Trousilek asked to tour the factory. He was impressed — not only was the quality A-1, but the prices were sensible. Still, he wanted to make sure it wasn’t too good to be true.

“I drove around Europe to see how it compares, and I found out that they are the best-selling yachting lines in the whole of Europe,” he said.

Armed with a proposal, Trousilek, 70, met with Lanex’s executives. Following two years of negotiations, he was awarded the exclusive distribution rights to sell their products in the United States.

“The people who buy it get their money’s worth,” he said. “To me, it’s exciting to take a product that no one has ever heard of and develop it.”

Lanex ropes have myriad yachting uses. For instance, racing and cruising lines can be used in a sheet, which control the movement of a yacht’s sail, or as a halyard to hoist sails or flags. The Narragansett Avenue storefront doubles as a showroom where retailers, shipyards and yacht owners can browse the brand’s selection of racing, cruising and mooring lines.

“They can see what we got,” Trousilek said.

Not only will SensibleYachting Cordage sell its Lanex products in store and online, Trousilek is soliciting retailers to offer them in their shops.

“We’re establishing a dealer distribution network across the U.S.,” he said.

Trousilek came to the United States in 1968, roughly 25 years before the country became the Czech Republic. In his second year on this side of the pond, his love of yachting was launched. He was living in Rockport, Mass, and the men he’d met were always on the water.

“This sounds pretty good,” he said to himself.

Trousilek purchased a boat and hired someone to teach him the basics. Although he went on a brief hiatus from the sport, the passion has never subsided in 50 years. To his day, he said he is happiest when he’s on the water.

Trousilek said his favorite part of sailing is long-distance cruising and passage making. He sailed around the world with his ex-wife, traveling to the Caribbean, South America and Europe. By the 1980s he began single handed sailing, which is the practice of traveling alone on the open ocean. He called it a lesson in self-reliance.

“I really enjoy it because you have nobody to worry about, just yourself,” he said.

He continued sailing until 1984, which is when he lost his boat in an accident off the coast of Bermuda. Trousilek quit sailing in lieu of operating a horse farm in Massachusetts. However, that didn’t last long; he was back under sail within three years.

Trousilek first came to Rhode Island in the late 1970s for the America’s Cup. From there, he lived on Narragansett Bay sporadically until moving permanently to Newport in 1991. About 12 years ago, he moved west across the bridge to Jamestown.

Since settling in the Ocean State, Trousilek has been involved with the commercial side of sailing. He was a board member of the Museum of Yachting in Newport, and also served as director of marketing for Ted Hood’s yacht company in Portsmouth until the owner’s death in 2013.

Aside from the business side of boats, Trousilek is an experienced sailor on the bay. Aboard his Chaser 33 boat dubbed Mad Czech, he won his division in the 2013 Around the Island Race sponsored by the Conanicut Yacht Club. That same season he captured the bronze medal in his fleet at the New York Yacht Club’s annual regatta.

Along with selling and sailing, Trousilek also is entering the world of sponsoring. He plans to support the Bermuda One-Two Race in June. The regatta, which is hosted by the New York Yacht Club, includes a single-handed leg from Newport to Bermuda, followed by a double-handed leg in reverse. Trousilek hopes to compete in the biennial race one day.

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