From mowing lawns to champion Bulldog

Published on January 22nd, 2015

As the Head Varsity Sailing Coach at Yale University, Zachary Leonard has led the Bulldogs to several Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association national championships, with the team earning the Fowle Trophy in 2013 and 2014, awarded to the best team in all championship disciplines. A champion in team racing and several one-design classes, himself, Zack has coached numerous Olympians and contenders and was US Sailing’s National Coach of the Year in 2007.

“I grew up in Barrington, Rhode Island and started sailing up in Maine, where my mom’s family is from, when I was six or seven,” says Zack, who lives in East Haven, CT. “I never took formal sailing lessons, but I was really lucky. I learned to sail by crewing for my dad, and when I was 13 I bought a Laser with money that I made mowing lawns. I brought it to the yacht club where my dad kept his boat and went sailing every day. Most of the kids were sailing Sunfish, and there was a smaller Laser group. There was an older guy sailing Lasers, who was maybe 17, named Peter Duclos. Peter had a double trailer and he drove me to Laser regattas all around New England for two years and taught me a lot.”

As a Yale undergraduate and a member of the sailing team, Zack was a Collegiate All-American in 1987 and Team Captain in 1988-89. “That was where a lot of great opportunities opened up for me, and things really took off in a bunch of ways,” he says. “I had sailed every day of the summer during high school and went frostbiting in the winter. When I got to Yale I sailed even more, putting in more hours on the water with other really motivated and really good sailors. That was a more naïve time in college sailing. There were four or five teams in the country that had coaches, and Yale didn’t. In my sophomore and junior years we got Dave Perry [Yale ‘77] to coach us one day a week, and that’s where things started to click. Dave helped us so much, and I learned a ton from him. He mentored us in a lot of different ways, took us to match racing regattas where we crewed for him, and opened up a lot of opportunities.”

“When I graduated from Yale, my first job was Head Sailing Coach at Brown. During that time I was also training for the Olympics in the Tornado class, and after four years at Brown I started a graphic design company with some friends in Providence. That job allowed the flexibility to sail Tornados five months a year. As skipper, I sailed with two fantastic sailors: Mike Ingham for two years and another two with Brian Doyle.” – WindCheck, read on

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