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Questions and Answers with Taylor Canfield

St. Thomas Yacht Club’s Taylor Canfield (second right) and his crew with the King Edward VII Gold Cup. Photo: Talbot Wilson
St. Thomas Yacht Club’s Taylor Canfield (second right) and his crew with the King Edward VII Gold Cup. Photo: Talbot Wilson

He grew up like many young sailors in the Caribbean: that is, racing dinghies with friends, making adventures out of sailing every day, and in so doing perfecting his competitive skills. Today, 23-year-old Taylor Canfield is one of the best match racers in the world – literally. Impressive wins last year in both the Argo Group Gold Cup and Monsoon Cup skyrocketed him to 9th in ISAF’s match racing rankings. Only one other Caribbean sailor has surpassed this achievement, Canfield’s fellow islander Peter Holmberg. Yet no other Caribbean islander has accomplished this feat at such a young age. All At Sea asked Canfield about his secret to success and what’s next?

When did you realize you wanted to match race?

I first fell in love with the sport of match racing when I was 13, when I traveled to Bermuda for the Renaissance Re Junior Gold Cup with Peter Holmberg; he was competing at the same time in the Argo Gold Cup. It wasn’t until age 16 that I could participate in match race events. I qualified for the U.S. Match Race Championship my first year. Then I sailed the Governor’s Cup in California, which was a great learning experience.

How did you accomplish your goal?

No specific way, although I do believe if you want something bad enough you can make it work out. I didn’t match race much in high school or college, but I was able to get involved in team racing. I won the high school and college team race championships while attending Antilles and Boston College. Many of the rules and aggressive fast paced sailing attributes were similar to those in match racing. At the end of the race there is no second place. It’s either a win or a loss. Most importantly the balance between the short course tactical fleet racing and the boat-on-boat aggressive team racing was nice to transfer my skills over to match racing.

How did you land a job at the Chicago Match Race Center (CMRC)?

I worked at Chicago Yacht Club for three summers while attending college and was able to get involved in the match race center. I negotiated to help volunteer and work for the center in my spare time in return for a membership during the summer, which gave me access to the boats. During my last summer, I knew that founder Bill Hardesty was not going to return so I reached out to CMRC in hopes they were in need of a new sailing director. I started as a full time employee in June 2011.

How does your job at the Center assist you in match racing?

I am surrounded by match racing every day. Sailing, rules talks, clinics, coaching, you name it. I also have full access to the boats, so I am able to bring my team in to train at any point as long as it does not disrupt any of the standard operations. And, I compete in many of the 10 to 15 events that the CMRC hosts each season.

In 2011 you hoped to gain entry into the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT). Now you have won two of the tour’s biggest events. How did you accomplish this?

My college coach Greg Wilkinson told me that you get better at sailing through time on the water. I’ve spent countless days on the water. Whenever I call him to catch up, the first question he asks me is if I went sailing today. I said to him once ‘even the best don’t sail every day’ and he replied, ‘do you want to be the best or in front of the best?’ Crew Hayden Goodrick, Matt Clark, Dan Morris, Josh McCaffrey, Rod Dawson and Mike Rehe were very important to our success in 2012.

What are your ultimate sailing goals?

One of my main goals is to compete on the WMRT for a few years and hopefully win the tour. I would also love to start calling tactics in some of the bigger one design classes such as Melges 32, Melges 20, TP52 and RC 44. I would also like to try some catamaran sailing and get involved in Extreme 40 series.

Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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