Legendary’s Crisp: ‘Hero of His Own Novel’
Ask someone who knows him, and they will surely to tell you that Andrew “Tripper” Crisp is one of a kind.
Crisp’s workdays usually start at 5:30 a.m., when he shows up in the pre-dawn dark at Legendary Marine’s Destin location. There his title is director of marine operations, which means he is in charge of parts and service.
For the past 11 years, those days have averaged 12 hours before Crisp drives home along Scenic U.S. Highway 98 to South Walton County.
So it figures that what comes next would be dinner and then some serious stretching out on the sofa to mellow out in front of the TV. But not for this man. His daughter, Shelby, says her father watches TV standing up.
“Drives me nuts,” he admitted. “But I’m tapering off on that.” And on all those hours too, he added.
Crisp turned 62 in March, and most his life has involved navigating from one point to another, much of it on water.
“He is a character,” Legendary CEO Peter Bos said without hesitation. “I feel it’s a one-in-a-million opportunity to get him on our team.
“He has a demeanor and his background is such that people in boating really seem to like him,” Bos added. “He can be as technical as you can understand, but he also has the ability to communicate with people who are not technical in a way that doesn’t make them feel stupid or naive.”
Born in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, Crisp grew up in Australia’s commonwealth playing field hockey and sailing the saltwater Derwent River, which could be as much as 3 miles wide.
“My very first boat was Narranda; my mother named it, and I think it had an aboriginal meaning,” he recalled. “That boat was the love of my life. It was a 12-foot cadet dinghy, very quick, very wet and really fast. Organized chaos, we used to call it. It was like a surfboard with a mast and four guys hanging on.”
As a teenager, Crisp one day discovered a two-page centerpiece ad in The Australian newspaper that read: “America’s Cup Challenge team members required.” It drew more than 3,000 candidates for what would be the 1974 races between Courageous from the United States and Southern Cross from Australia.
After two years of working through required programs, Crisp wound up being the very last of the 35 team members chosen.
“It was not done alphabetically or numerically, it was just done randomly,” he recalled. “Somebody had to be last, and it may as well be me. Looking back now, I would probably have a different reaction, but it was OK.”
Even though Courageous defeated Southern Cross 4-0 and “gave us a thrashing in what not to do,” Crisp’s life would never be the same.
Soon afterward, he became part of the crew on Kialoa III, an 80-foot Maxi-Ocean racer that dominated its sport. It broke the Sydney to Hobart Race record in 1975 and held the mark for 21 years.
Victories included winning the Transatlantic, Transpac, China Sea and World Ocean Racing Conference championships. It also became the first such boat to travel through the newly reopened Suez Canal in 1975. Along the way, Crisp logged more than 150,000 nautical miles.
As documented on Legendary’s website, his résumé includes stints as:
- Director of service for Bertram Yachts with responsibility for the Western United States;
- Director of operations for the Newport Harbor Shipyard and Development in California;
- Manager and developer of Clearwater Bay Marine and Country Club in Hong Kong;
- Director of service for Olympic Boating Centers featuring nine facilities representing US Marine’s largest independent dealer.
All of which adds up to Bos referring to Crisp as “the hero of his own novel.”
In California, he met Fred Pace, who was a founding partner of Legendary LLC. In March 2004, Crisp made his first visit to what would become known as the Emerald Coast.
During the ’70s young Captain Crisp (left) and his crew lured in plenty of big gamefish like this prize-winning 130-pound marlin at tournaments along the west coast while commanding Mass Confusion.
courtesy of Andrew Crisp
“I immediately fell in love with Destin,” he said. “It was one of those picture-perfect days, and I went over the East Pass bridge and went, ‘Wow.’ The water was crystal clear, and I went swimming in the Gulf. I thought it was pretty balmy at 72 degrees, but everybody thought I was nuts.”
Once committed to joining Legendary, Crisp brought his wife, Casey, and daughter, Shelby, with him. Shelby Crisp, 29 years old, works in the accounting department at Emerald Grande. And her father’s maximum commitment to his job has not infringed on their family ties.
“He’s very supportive,” Shelby Crisp said. “He’s one in a million to me, because he’s helped me through some bad times in recent years. He’s constantly been by my side.”
Legendary Marine’s Destin location has grown to include a storage facility with 750 berths, and those are 97 percent full, according to chief operating officer Pete Knowles. Crisp also stated that his parts and service staff of 32 people generated about $7.5 million last year.
And in 2012 and 2013, Legendary was voted Dealer of the Year by the North American Marine Association, and thereby entered its Hall of Fame along with Galati and Marine Max.
“Customers have gotten to know him and trust him with their boats,” Knowles said. “Whenever he says, ‘You need to do this or that,’ they do it. They know he’s honest, he’s right and he’s not just trying to sell them something.”
Crisp does not make any attempt to take personal credit for success.
“It’s been a very unique experience,” he summarized. “Our location in Destin and this particular facility have allowed the growth of the parts and service department.
“You’d never be able to repeat this anywhere else in the United States,” he said.
“Eighty percent of our clients don’t live in the state of Florida. They live anywhere from Texas to Tennessee. We also have a great relationship with a lot of people who don’t keep their boats in the barn, but who bring their boats back to us for service. We all have clients that won’t deal with another person in the company. They deal with that person they’ve had an alliance with over the course of time.”
True to form, Crisp cites “the human aspect” as the key element. The average Legendary company experience with his employees is seven to 10 years.
“First of all, we look after our people,” he said. “Our people come first and our clients come second. We believe that if our people are looked after and handled as family, then the family will take care of our clients, and that’s come from a lot of perseverance and a lot of training.
“We operate on the basis of the client is always right regardless of demeanor, and we have nurtured our people to respect those people who come down to use their boat an average of 7.2 times a year,” Crisp added. “They might need a boat like a hole in the head, but if we can give them something to play with and have a great time, they’re going to come back, keep their boat here and service their boat here.”