Stu and Dave: Together at an Ideal Time

Published on March 29th, 2016

After wins at the 2015 470 Europeans and 2016 Sailing World Cup Miami, Americans Stuart McNay and David Hughes like their chances at the 2016 Olympics. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck checked in with the team for this update…


Dave Hughes (left) and Stu McNay

How many Olympic campaigns have you had?
Stu: I campaigned for the 2004 Games with crews Arthur Kinsolving and Ross Anderson. They were friends from college and we had some greats times racing abroad and in USA. In 2005 Graham Biehl and I teamed up. We competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and now Dave and I have our eye on a medal at the 2016 Olympics.
Dave: I’ve done two campaigns, one for the 2008 Games with partner Mikee Anderson-Mitterling, and this current campaign with Stu. For the 2012 quad, I focused on the 49er and coached Erik Storck and Trevor Moore at the Olympic Games in Weymouth.

The 470 does not have much activity in North America. How does that impact your preparation?
Stu: When we need top level competition we usually train abroad. We have had very good training relationship with women’s teams from USA where we have all gained a lot. There are some skills we can work on by ourselves, but most of our preparation now is based around top level training partners at the Olympic venue in Rio.
Dave: It doesn’t really impact the schedule. Most of the major events are abroad with the exception of Sailing World Cup Miami. However, due to the popularity of the Miami regatta, many international teams come to the US for a month and participate in the World Cup plus the lead-up events such as North Americans and the US Nationals. In that sense, there are multiple high-quality events in the US that time of year. Many Americans teams not doing Olympic campaigns do participate. Of course, home regattas are always a bonus!

Why hasn’t the class gained more of a presence in the US?
Stu: Olympic classes sometimes have a hard time establishing themselves as local fleets because the boats can be very technical and hard to race well. I think it is a vicious cycle where club racers do not enjoy the 470 because the fleets are small and there is wide performance gap between the club level and the full time sailors, so then there is less interest in sailing the 470 as a recreational boat. That being said, the 470 is a great boat to sail. It can be raced in all conditions. The technique and tuning challenges the boat presents are fun and exciting. More people should give it a try.

I think we are in the process of seeing a bloom in attendance at Olympic class regattas in USA. There have been excellent youth feeder programs like Steve Keen’s LISOT and West Coast’s CISA. These programs have produced more young sailors with their eye on the Olympics. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the long run and whether the US Olympic class fleet sizes will grow and sustain their growth.

Dave: Generally, technical Olympic classes don’t gain much traction with non-campaigners. There is not a barrier-to-entry that some people believe — boats are available and there any many US sailors with strong knowledge of the 470. However, perhaps the professionalism of Olympic classes makes the class unappealing to those looking for part-time racing. This is not a 470-specific reality. This is also the same in other Olympic classes — the 49er is a perfect example.

What has made this campaign different?

Stu: Dave and I are both veterans to the Olympic Games in many capacities (coach, sailor, training partner). We have a strong idea of the process required to win an Olympic medal. We are trying to achieve a longtime goal and so far the project is on track.
Dave: Stu and I have teamed up at an ideal time. We both already have Olympic experiences under our belts, have sailed the 470 for decades, and have woven in a healthy balance of other types of sailing and racing. Most importantly, we are at a beneficial intersection of youthfulness-in-body and age-of-mind that allows us to take advantage of maturity and experience.

Note: The US selection series for the Men’s 470 event won’t conclude until the completion of the 2016 470 Europeans in Spain (Mar 26-Apr 2) but no other American team is contesting Stu and Dave as the US Olympic representative in the event. Details.

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