Born in Leiden, Holland, "Jopie" (pronounced Yopie), whose full name is Johannes Josephus Alfonsus Helsen III, grew up in Warmond, on the Kaag Lakes, the sailing center of Holland. He is a 2nd generation boat builder as well as a yacht designer and Westlawn School of Yacht Design alumnus.
He has built 2003 sailboats from 19' to 27' under the Helsen and Montego labels and designed sailboats and powerboats up to 57 ft. He has owned the Sailor's Wharf Yacht Yard since 1978, on Salt Creek near downtown St. Petersburg.
In 1992, Jopie started Sail St Pete and, after 2 years, handed the show over to Sail America. He has been involved in marine industry organizations as past chairman of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, served on the national board of ABBRA and has been a past speaker at IBEX on varies topics related to boat yards and the service business. Jopie is currently the past chairman of the Tampa Bay Section of SWFMIA, the Florida West Coast area’s marine industry association. He organized and chairs the TBMIR’s Waterfront Committee, serves on the Mayor of St Petersburg’s Waterfront Committee and in the past, has served on many community boards. Jopie is a past president of Leadership St. Pete, and Pinellas Marine Institute, a juvenile program of which he is very proud. In 1986, the Sailor's Wharf facilities were awarded the best-designed service and retail facility in the St. Petersburg area, and in 1990, Jopie was a finalist as “Pinellas County Small Business Person of the Year” and was the “2015 Member of the Year” of the Southwest Florida Marine Industry Association.
Jopie has been ocean racing sailboats since the age of 15. He has won numerous racings including the Isla Mujeres Race to Mexico. He has sailed to Cuba 7 times since 1979 with January 2016 being the most recent.