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In life and in business, these Region sailors cast off with the waves

Maggi Spartz says the lessons learned from sailing served her well in the business world, teaching her resilience and perseverance. (Provided by Lori Tubbs)

Several Northwest Indiana businesspeople have turned to sailing not only as a relief from navigating the commercial waters but also as a fresh channel for their competitive instincts.

Michael Lunn looks forward to leaving the office a little early and getting together with his buddies for Wednesday evening races. He is a commercial real estate broker who owns Crown Point-based NWI Commercial Property Solutions.

“It just kind of breaks up your week,” said Lunn, whose company has been serving Lake, Porter and La Porte counties for the past 20 years. “The variety is what keeps it exciting and creates a sort of a mid-week mind eraser. You get back to the office the next day, and you have a fresh perspective on the tasks at hand.”

He’s not alone in that perspective.

Lori Tubbs, an advantage partner with Schererville-based McColly Bennett Commercial, has been “intensely involved” in commercial real estate in Northwest Indiana for 25 years. She said sailing helps her unplug.

“You’re out in the water. You can’t really answer phone calls. You don’t really have reception all the time. No emails. It’s just you and the wind,” she said.

Lori Tubbs
Lori Tubbs, an advantage partner with McColly Bennett Commercial,
says she sails to unplug. (Provided by Lori Tubbs)

The commercial real estate field allows her just the right balance between work and sailing time. Nights are open for her, “so I don’t have to necessarily juggle my sailing hours with work.”

For Maggi Spartz, sailing is part of a family tradition. She runs the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, a philanthropic foundation that addresses educational, health, cultural and environmental needs of residents. She began sailing as a child.

The lessons from sailing served her well in the business world, teaching her resilience and perseverance.

“I learned from those experiences (that) no matter how bad the storm was or how uncomfortable or cold or wet or whatever that it’s only temporary,” she said. “The sun’s going to come out. The waves are going to go away.”

For this group of Northwest Indiana sailors, the competitive racing season can include a race from Chicago to Waukegan, Illinois, and the Tri-State regatta, which runs from Chicago to St. Joseph, Michigan, to Michigan, City, Indiana. But the big one is the 333-mile Chicago to Mackinac race.

The Tri-State race, Lunn said, “was gorgeous. There was an orange full moon rising. There is no night pollution, so you can really see the stars a lot closer.”

For him, this year’s Mackinac race was special because he gained membership in the Island Goats Sailing Society, which honors those who have been to at least 25 Mackinac races.

This particular race also is special for another reason — he met his wife, Kate, “the first mate,” after one. He was invited for drinks by one of the skippers after finishing the race in Chicago. He then struck up a conversation with a “cute little redhead.” The two wound up getting married on Mackinac Island and sailed off into the sunset the next year.

Lori Tubbs, who received her captain’s license over the winter, will be competing in her eighth Mackinac race. (Provided by Lori Tubbs)

Tubbs, who received her captain’s license over the winter, will be competing in her eighth Mackinac race.

As for Spartz, her father, Ted Amberg, ended up in the Beverly Shores/Michigan City area because he grew up in Chicago and wanted to sail. He built boats and involved his four daughters and a son in sailing.

“So, we were expected to throw lines expertly, tie knots expertly, even from a very young age,” she said.

Around 1979, one of her father’s crew members for the Mackinac race got sick, and he chose his daughter as a substitute.

“One of his crew members was so upset that there was going to be a broad on board,” she said. “I mean, he wouldn’t even look at me or talk to me.”

After her father’s death, she carried on the family tradition and joined the crew of the Spirit Walker, which won the Mackinac race in 2015.

“It’s really hard to actually win overall, but we did it by 13.5 minutes,” she said.

Maggi Spartz
Maggi Spartz, president of the Unity Foundation of La Porte County, says
sailing is part of a family tradition. (Provided by Maggi Spartz)

On the boat she is sailing, the Ghost, owned by Valparaiso resident Mike Jones, her role is trimming the mainsail, the biggest sail and the one that acts as the engine for the boat.

She likes the Mackinac race because, “It tests all of your skill plus your physical stamina,” she said. “Sometimes that involves being buffeted by 6-foot waves and confronted (with) cold and wet conditions. You also need to keep your mind sharp while being sleep deprived.”

During the offseason, Spartz continues to train.

“You’ve got to keep your core strong,” she said. “Because, even if you’re just a person that sits on the rail, to sit for hours or even days on the rail like that you need a strong core because otherwise your back is just going to be killing you.”

Tubbs’ athletic background serves her well. Being athletic is important if you’re going to race, she said, because “you’ve got to do a lot of jumping and moving.”

“When you’re racing, you’ve got to make maneuvers, and you’ve got to make them very quickly, and you’ve got to pull things and tug things and shift things very fast and very delicately,” she said.

While she enjoys competitive sailing, she also likes noncompetitive day sailing.

“Obviously, being in sales, clearly I like the challenges,” Tubbs said. But on some days, “you just don’t want to fight Mother Nature. You just want to get on the boat and sail whatever direction the wind takes you.”

Read more stories from the current issue of Northwest Indiana Business Magazine.


  • Steve Zalusky

    Steve Zalusky is a newspaper journalist from suburban Chicago who covers municipal government and dabbles in writing about sports, libraries, old movies and jazz.


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