Interview with Claire Dennis

Third overall and top female at the 2013 US Laser Radial Nationals

Clever Pig: Congratulations on a successful event! It looks like you are setting out on a pretty exciting journey! Can you tell us about your plans for RIO 2016?  How are you going to prepare?

Claire: Right now I am spending a lot of time sailing the laser radial and identifying which skills I need to focus on in the short-term and longer-term. After four years of college sailing I am loving laser sailing again and being able to concentrate full-time on just one boat and one type of racing! I have a great schedule set up through October with lots of training so that I can work on specific areas for improvement.  I’ll be training in southern California, Vancouver, and mostly in San Francisco – home!  We have a great training group of other US and international sailors who all have different strengths  

Clever Pig: Why did you choose the Laser Radial?

Claire: I have loved laser sailing since I first sailed the boat when I was fourteen. I enjoy the physical aspect of laser sailing and the emphasis placed on the sailor as there are hardly any differences between boats. 

Clever Pig: What might be some of the biggest obstacles or challenges you for see in your campaign?

Claire: Based on what I have heard from other sailors who have campaigned, I envision that one of the biggest obstacles will be making sure I maintain the proper balance between training and racing. Also making sure that the training is in logical locations that provide a variety of conditions.  And then there’s the fundraising aspect!

Clever Pig: How did you prepare for US Nationals? Will you modify your training for the next event based on how you performed?

Claire: For the US Nationals I was able to spend only a few days training in Santa Cruz prior to the event. I hadn’t sailed lasers since before graduation so I was a bit rusty and focused mainly on just getting back in the boat and getting comfortable in breeze again. As the summer progresses I will be focusing more on speed and then smaller technique elements. Getting back my downwind speed will certainly be a focus as well as general hiking fitness.

Clever Pig: How did this year’s event feel different than previous years?

Claire: I hadn’t sailed a US Laser Nationals in over four years so it was really exciting to be back at Laser event with youth and adult sailors and not just women! I was able to reengage with a lot of people I hadn’t seen since I went off to college including some of my past coaches.  I also really enjoyed meeting many new faces and the up and coming youth sailors.

Claire Dennis sailing on a fast reachClever Pig: What makes you laugh on the racecourse?

Claire: I’m generally very serious while I am racing but at the US Nationals I was able to get in a few laughs with other sailors about how far we thought we would make it in the race before the breeze died and switched from the Westerly to the Easterly (this happened every day sometime during our second race).  

Clever Pig: Who are your sailing mentors? And why?

Claire: Beyond my parents, Craig Healy and Steve Bourdow were two of my early sailing mentors. Craig always helped me keep sailing in perspective and fielded my questions about Olympic sailing when I was still sailing Optis and into my early years in the laser. Steve coached me during high school and helped me develop a strong work ethic and a system for working on various aspects of my sailing. He showed me the professional side of the sport and bridged the gap beyond youth sailing .  Steve also shared a lot of mental aspects of the sport and how to manage disappointment.

Zack Leonard, my college coach at Yale, has certainly been my greatest sailing mentor since high school. I didn’t always have the easiest time with college sailing or double-handed sailing in general but I knew that Zack was always there. Zack’s experience with Olympic sailing was extremely valuable to help me keep in touch with laser sailing during college and, now, transitioning to full-time campaigning.

Clever Pig: Were there any points in the regatta when you felt nervous? How did you over come it?

Claire: I went into this event with process goals rather than result goals since it was my first event back in lasers since the ISAF Sailing World Cup in Miami (OCR). I was nervous before the first day just because I hadn’t been on a start line with more than 18 boats in a while or sailed a 15minute upwind.  I had prepared myself for a bit of a rusty start back and so was pleased with how I did . During the regatta I kept track of what I need to work on in training over this summer and down the road.  I also made sure to stay realistic about my expectations for the event given the limited amount of time I have had in the laser recently .

Clever Pig: What other events do you plan on sailing in this summer?

Claire: I just finished racing the PCCs that were held in Cascade Locks, Oregon where I was the top woman and third overall,  again! I will be going to Ireland at the end of August for the Women’s Radial European Championships followed by the World Championships at the end of September in China.

Clever Pig: Thank you Claire!

For Results visit:

US Laser Radial Nationals– Santa Cruz, CA.

To Follow Claire’s Campaign visit:

www.clairedennis.org or www.facebook.com/clairedennissailing