Training program paving road to success

Published on February 14th, 2019

Oakcliff Sailing is a training center which offers a proving ground to develop skills in the three big veins of professional sailing: the America’s Cup, the Olympics, and around-the-world races. With a goal to elevate American sailing back to the highest level world-wide, the program has reason to celebrate these days.

Oakcliff Sailing graduate Sean O’Halloran (above) has been selected to join New York Yacht Club’s American Magic, Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup, as a member of the shore crew. As an American Magic training partner, Oakcliff works with the team to train and identify potential America’s Cup sailors and support personnel.

O’Halloran grew up in San Jose, California, and learned to sail at an early age, but it wasn’t until college that his passion for sailing became a major focus. He earned a spot on his college team through determination and countless hours of studying videos of sailing technique.

After graduation, O’Halloran went into the culinary industry but sailing was never far from his thoughts. When he saw Oakcliff’s turbocharged Farr 40s competing at 2015 Block Island Race Week, he soon was within the program which has now launched his career.

O’Halloran is currently working at American Magic’s winter base in Pensacola, Florida where the team is running tests on “The Mule,” a 38-foot test platform for the AC75.

“The biggest challenge is that there is something new every day,” said O’Halloran. “You never what’s going to pop up. Luckily, when I was at Oakcliff there was so much to do that I got experience with a little bit of everything. It made me comfortable taking on new things and pushing the boundaries of what I was capable of.

“The days are long, especially sailing days. We regularly work 10-14 hour days. One of the coolest parts is being surrounded by such an accomplished group of sailors. Nearly everyone has worked on a Volvo or America’s Cup campaign before and they really understand what it takes to win.”

O’Halloran is the second Oakcliff graduate to join American Magic’s team. Last winter, Oakcliff’s High Performance Fleet Manager and MIT Engineering graduate Robyn Lesh was hired to work as an engineer on the design team.

The partnership with American Magic is one of several that enhances Oakcliff’s Professional Development Program.

Recent success stories include placing students with Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team Alvimedica, run by Oakcliff graduates and Volvo Ocean Race veterans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Other students and graduates have sailed with Rick Warner, the owner of Areté, an ORMA 60 trimaran in the Great Lakes seeking to break the Chicago to Mackinac Island speed record.

“There is no clear mechanism in sailing to go from desire to reality,” said Riley. “That’s why Oakcliff exists. We push our trainees to hone their craft and learn the skills they need to be able to grab opportunities and excel.”

O’Halloran sees attitude as key to advancement. “Be humble and be a good person. Surround yourself with opportunities to grow and learn new skills, or improve on old ones. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s such a small industry and it really rewards people who work hard and don’t try to show off.”

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