US SAILING speaks to US Laser sailor Clay Johnson, as he heads home from Australia with silver in hand following the opening event of the 2009-2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup season.
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) athlete won an impressive silver medal at Sail Melbourne on Saturday, his best performance yet at an ISAF Sailing World Cup event. In the 43-boat-strong Laser class, Clay Johnson
grabbed two bullets and a second place during the qualifying series and finished second overall to Canadian Michael Leigh by a mere two net points.
US SAILING interviewed the Laser up-and-comer from Toms River, New Jersey, about this important result, his strengths on the water and how he handled the time difference down under:
How does it feel to win a silver medal and be on the podium at Sail Melbourne?
I'm very pleased with my overall result, and am excited to start the 2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup season so strongly. Going into the event, my goal was to make the Medal Race and hopefully finish in the top five, so a podium finish exceeded my expectations. I've been training hard over the past few months so it feels rewarding to see all of my work pay off.
What were your strengths this regatta? What were the keys to your success?
For most of the sailing in Melbourne, the left-hand side of the course was favoured. The Race Committee and most of the sailors knew this and skewed the course to make the starting line and all gates right-side biased. I think an important part to my success this past week was knowing when to go for the left and when to take advantage of the skewed course. I think I did a good job of processing the conditions and making quick decisions. Having good starts also helped me, as I had the freedom to go where I wanted.
What were your challenges?
One thing that was different was the later start time than normal. Racing each day started at 3 PM, so it was tough to alter my regatta routine around a late-afternoon start. There was a lot of free time in the morning! I also think that mentally it was tough to sail at 6 or 7 PM when the sun was going down. The days felt longer than normal sailing days because we had so much time in the morning, and then it was a fire drill in the afternoon with sailing late into the day and all of the after-race tasks to do.
How were the conditions in Melbourne?
The conditions here were great. We had sun, temperatures in the 80s, 15 knots, and nice waves. It was fun racing!
Did you come to Sail Melbourne with set goals?
Coming into the event, my goal was to make the medal race and hopefully be in the top five. At the end of the event, despite the fact that I didn't win, I was pretty pleased to meet my goal and get a podium finish.
Why was it important for you to compete at Sail Melbourne?
Coming to Melbourne was a pretty big part of my 2010 schedule. This regatta was the first leg of the Sailing World Cup, so getting off to a good start was awesome. The end goal of my campaign is heading into the Olympics with a chance to medal. I think that coming to international regattas like this and doing well is important so that you know and your competitors know that you can finish at the top of the fleet. Doing well in Melbourne was a big step for 2010.
How did you prepare for this event?
After the Sail for Gold Regatta in September, I took some time off in October from sailing and spent a lot of time in the gym. In November and December, I did two 14-day training camps in Florida with some top international sailors. Those camps were very productive and really helped me prepare for the event.
Do you have any interesting travel stories from this trip?
This was my first time travelling to Australia, and I really enjoyed my trip down. I travelled with [Laser Radial sailor] Paige Railey, and we arrived for the event at noon the day before! It was probably the latest that I have ever arrived before an international event. I was mostly worried about the time change, but it ended up not being that bad at all. It was definitely a fly-in, fly-out event, but a great experience.
To learn more about Clay, please visit his campaign website: http://claysails.com
For more on USSTAG go to http://sailingteams.ussailing.org
Find out more about the ISAF Sailing World Cup, including more on the seven events, photos, videos, the latest World Cup Standings and the scoring system at www.sailing.org/worldcup.