Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Interview with Dave Ullman by Kristen Lane

Personal Sailing Story: Dave Ullman

Dave Ullman is somewhat of a national treasure. He has 4 “World Champion” titles to his name – all in high performance boats (the 470 and the Melges 24). He achieved his latest title at 61 years of age. To say he’s a great sailor is an understatement to be sure. But sailing is just part of Dave’s story. Beneath his many titles and accomplishments is a man who knew at the age of 16 that he would pursue sailing as a career. He struggled with dyslexia and only learned to read in his late 20’s. He worked hard through two Olympic campaigns that culminated in winning 3 World Championship titles in the 470 class leading up the trials. His Olympic aspirations crushed by the US Boycott, Dave took another path. Here’s a little insight into why this guy is so good and why, people who crave competitionshould listen to this story of hard work, determination, and guts.

K.Lane: Dave, thank you for joining us. It’s an honor to have you here with us.

DU: “It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.”

K.Lane: You and I just finished working together and I want to bring our audience up to speed. You coached our Team Brick House Melges 24 team in Annapolis in preparation for the 2009 World Championship. In addition to Team Brick House, our training group included Alan Field and his team aboard “WTF” and the Swiss team of Blue Moon. For Team Brick House, I can say your coaching made a huge impact on our performance. Peter and I finished in the top 20 and were thrilled with our progress over the training period. So, let’s start by discussing your approach to coaching sailing teams, and amateur drivers.

DU: “Coaching requires looking at the program and deciding what is the area that you can make the greatest improvement over the least amount of time. Another way to think about it is what are the greatest weaknesses of the team? What can you do to improve those weaknesses as quickly as possible? Unless you have an ongoing program for say 1 year where you could develop skills over a long period of time, you have to take a shorter approach. We don’t spend that kind of time on this sport. For the 2009 Worlds, I had to ask myself what would bring this group the furthest along in the shortest time. We had 4 teams with a wide range of experience levels so I had to strategize a plan that would help everyone.”

K.Lane: I have already noted how helpful the coaching was for Team BH. How did the other teams feel?

DU: “WTF felt it was a huge benefit. I have been working with Alan and his team for some time so I have a good relationship there and I know that team well. They learned a lot but didn’t quite get the regatta results they wanted. Blu Moon, it was not much time to implement change before the regatta in Annapolis, but I had spent 2 weeks in Europe with them. In the days before the regatta, we didn’t have enough time before the event to really make an impact.”

“As for the overall regatta, I have to say that Chris Larson did a spectacular job. No one started as well as he did. The key to the regatta was starting well. Richard (Richard Clarke) also said the key was starting well. So they could go the direction they wanted to go or could go for 3 minutes and not have to tack. They also had a good idea that you go left in that wind direction – i.e. you go left unless it’s northwesterly. That requires excellent starting. Chris gets all the kudos for that.”

K.Lane: You won the Melges 24 World Championship in 2007 at the age of 61. Where does that victory rank in your career?

DU: “It’s quite high, obviously, because of my age it’s extra special. But without a doubt, winning the 470 worlds three times was the highlight of my career. It was the highest moment of that class so that would certainly be the pinnacle. Winning the Melges 24 worlds proved to me that at an older age, I could still compete on a high level with the world. And it was really nice that it was a heavy air venue on top of that. It was a personal triumph.”

K.Lane: That’s funny because the 2007 worlds had a similar impact on me. It proved to me that I could sail this boat against men in any condition.

DU: “Yes, you can!”

Read the rest for this great interview @ http://www.teambrickhouse.com/Blog/Entries/2009/11/25_Personal_Sailing_Story:__Dave_Ullman.html