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Interview with USSTAG's Andrew Campbell

After representing the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in the Laser class, US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics’ Andrew Campbell (San Diego, Calif.) was ready to jump back in and launch another Olympic campaign. But this time, he made the tough transition from sailing a singlehanded dinghy to skippering a Star, a doublehanded Olympic class keelboat. He teamed up with crew Brad Nichol (Miami, Fla.) who already had a Star campaign under his belt. Together, the team has shown strong results at some of the top international regattas, including ISAF Sailing World Cup events in Europe and the Star World Championship in Rio. The US Olympic Sailing Program recognized Campbell's successful switch to a new, challenging class by awarding him the 209 Best Performance by a Newcomer Award in January. This week, Campbell is competing at the renowned Bacardi Cup in Miami among a deep fleet of 84 boats. US SAILING caught up with Campbell about the Star’s enormous challenges, his tactical strengths and his renewed Olympic drive for a medal in 2012. 

US SAILING: How has the transition been from racing a Laser to a Star?

2N3_3301_Andrew Campbell_Walter Cooper US SAILINGCAMPBELL: The transition that I’ve made from the Laser into the Star boat has been a difficult one without a doubt. … I was ready for a change. The Laser has done an incredible amount for my sailing and for my career in sailing as a sport, and I was ready for a class that fit my strengths a little better. I think the Star boat has done that.

US SAILING: How does the Star fit your strengths better?

CAMPBELL: The Star boat brings out a lot of my tactical ability and has given me a new area to play around with sail trim and boat tuning in a way that’s not really that possible in the Laser. Certainly the feel and physicality of the Laser is something that can’t be beat – and you learn a lot there. But the Star boat brings a lot of different elements to [sailing] that I think I’m much better fitted to.

US SAILING: How has your sailing experience in the Laser helped you skipper a Star boat?

CAMPBELL: The [Star] boat is big. The sail that I have to trim is huge. And I think we’ve tripled the sail area, compared to the Laser, as far as I’m concerned. When the breeze comes up, it’s like having a lion by the tail. There’s too much power for you to get a hold of. So developing my physical strength is still something that I’m going to have to work on for the new class. But knowing how to handle the boat to your advantage and use the boat against itself in a lot of ways and trick the boat into thinking that there isn’t as much load as there really is, then those are the kind of things you pick up from the Laser and jump into a new boat with, which makes it easier.

US SAILING: What drives you to pursue another Olympic campaign?

CAMPBELL: What drives me is just a passion for the sport. You know, I fulfilled my dream to be an Olympian in 2008. Being there and walking through that stadium door and seeing 100,000 people at the opening ceremonies and watching that Olympic flame being lit, that fulfills my dream to be an Olympian. And to follow the tradition of a lot of San Diego Yacht Club members and sailors that have been to the Games, that’s something that I’m very proud to carry.

[In 2012], the new driving force will be to win a medal. ... I think that this new class will maybe provide me with some better opportunities to win a medal at the Olympics. But, beyond that, I’ve got a passion for the rest of the sport too. I brought a lot of match racing into my schedule last year, and I did a lot more big boat sailing and I sailed with a Melges 32 team last winter. So, the fact that I can do a ton of other sailing is what keeps me going without a doubt.

Olympic sailing is hard and difficult and painstaking and sometimes a headache before the events. But when you’re on the water racing, it’s as good as it gets.

* To read more about Andrew, please visit his web site and read his blog: campbellsailing.com

* Watch Andrew's Meet the Team interview: http://www.youtube.com/user/USSTAG?feature=mhw5#p/f/12/LARabJZsdL4

[Photo credit: Walter Cooper / US SAILING]