Sailor Spotlight: Mike Dowd

April 20, 2018 9:19:54 AM EDT

Sailor Spotlight:  Mike Dowd

Mike Dowd is the head Optimist coach for CERT, a local Optimist team that trains outside the summer months and provides opportunities to travel to national and international events with top coaching.  Originally from Sarasota, FL, Mike moved up to New Jersey two years ago to take over the CERT team.  Mike is a member of the USODA Coaches Council, coaches the US Optimist Nationals Team, and he has been selected to coach the US at many international events.  His wealth of experience and knowledge in the Optimist fleet makes him a huge asset to be coaching our local Barnegat Bay sailors.
Name:  Mike Dowd
Age:  28 
School Attended:  State College of Florida 
Yacht Club:  Sarasota Sailing Squadron and Toms River Yacht Club
1) Mike, you are the head Opti coach for CERT.  Tell me about the program you run and what opportunities there are for local Opti sailors. CERT is an Optimist racing team for sailors wanting to extend their sailing season beyond the summer sailing weeks.  We hold weekly clinics from September to December and from March to May.  The majority of our clinics are at Toms River Yacht Club, and we almost always practice at each regatta venue for at least one day prior to each event.  We attend the majority of USODA regattas, team races, and open international events like the famous Orange Bowl.  This year we are adding the Saint Thomas IOR and CORK to our schedule!  Our sailors get the opportunity to attend these events as a high performance travel racing team, rather than a yacht club program.  Families do not need to be a member of any yacht club or organization to be a part of CERT.  We utilize top local coaches as well as bring in some of the best Opti coaches in the world for our sailors!
2) The Team Trials is arguably the most important regatta of the year.  I know you guys are preparing hard for it right now.  Tell me about the event (where, when), what's on the line, and how you best prepare your sailors to peak at this event. 
The Team Trials is a seeding event for the US National Team, the World Championships, North Americans,​
​Asians, and other international optimist events. To attend Team Trials the sailor must first qualify by finishing in the top 25 percent in a USODA regatta. This makes Trials more competitive because its the top 25% of Optimist sailors in the country. There should be around 250 sailors and only 55 of them can make the National Team, while the top 80-100 may qualify for an international event. We have been working very hard on perfecting our speed in 
chop, Anyone who has sailed in Miami has experienced the “Sunday Funday” boat wake that can come from every direction! We are also focusing on our start consistency. Starting well every race will set you up for a successful regatta. Our Spring season leads directly into team trials and we only have a month and a half to prepare after winter.  We take advantage of every minute on and off the water and I think the sailors try that much harder because they understand we have less sailing time than some other teams. Maintaining a positive attitude, keeping it fun, stress free, and getting everyone feeling as prepared as possible, are the ingredients for a great regatta.
3) As someone who has been looking at Opti results for the past couple of years, it seems like Stefan Baker from Miami is one of the most dominant Opti sailors ever.  He has won almost every event he sails (local, national, and international), most of them with all first place finishes.  As a coach, what makes Stefan so much better?  What does he do that you try to instill in your sailors?  I h​ad the opportunity to work with Stephan a few weeks ago at the South American Champs. I’d say his key to success is his attention to detail.  He is a very proactive sailor.​  Whether it’s perfecting his sail setup, knowing and anticipating exactly what time the tide will switch, or syncing up his technique with the conditions.  He has incredible speed and strategy off the wind which is why he always extends his lead or climbs back into the top during reaches and downwinds.​  He also really wants to win!  He always sails the last race of the regatta even when he is throwing out a 1st. Many habits he has are really simple for everyone to do: Try to be the first one out to the race course every day, test the line and your upwind angles as much as possible before each race, and change gears as soon as the wind changes. Try to get an edge on the fleet no matter what the circumstances. 
4)  You've coached a few international events for the US team.  Which international events have you coached and which has been your favorite?  I coached the Magic Marine Easter Regatta in Holland, the Top-Sport Valaanderean Regatta in Belgium, the Palamos Regatta in Spain, and the South Americans in Uruguay.  South Americans was definitely my favorite because the event itself is so highly admired, and the US sailors and coaches really became a team during this trip.  Any international regatta is an awesome experience for the sailors and the coaches because you get to experience a whole new culture while racing!  You also feel a huge sense of pride because you are representing your country and not just yourself!

5)  When you're not coaching, what kind of sailing do you do yourself?  I have done a lot of Escow sailing lately. 2 years ago I did Nationals with Kyle Rogochenko, and last year I sailed with a few teams, John Brown, Tom Cox, and Jeff Bonanni as a spinnaker trimmer. This winter, I managed to get a Viper 640 for the winter series in Sarasota, which was a ton of fun because I got to drive! 
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Colie Sails