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Interview with Clay Johnson, Silver Medalist at Sail Melbourne

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Contact: Marni Lane, 617.671.8332 , marnilane@ussailing.org 

Interview with USSTAG’s Clay Johnson, Silver Medalist at Sail Melbourne

Portsmouth, R.I. (December 21, 2009) – Laser sailor Clay Johnson (Toms River, N.J.) is heading home from Australia with silver in hand. The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) athlete won an impressive silver medal at Sail Melbourne Saturday, his best performance yet at an International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Cup event. In the 43-boat-strong Laser class, Johnson grabbed two bullets and a second place during the qualifying series and finished second overall to Canadian Michael Leigh by a mere two net points.

Clayton Johnson_Credit Walter CooperUS SAILING interviewed the Laser up-and-comer about this important result, his strengths on the water and how he handled the time difference down under:

How does it feel to win a silver medal and be on the podium at Sail Melbourne?

I'm very pleased with my overall result, and am excited to start the 2010 ISAF Sailing World Cup season so strongly. Going into the event, my goal was to make the medal race and hopefully finish in the top five, so a podium finish exceeded my expectations. I've been training hard over the past few months so it feels rewarding to see all of my work pay off.

What were your strengths this regatta? What were the keys to your success?

For most of the sailing in Melbourne, the left-hand side of the course was favored. The Race Committee and most of the sailors knew this and skewed the course to make the starting line and all gates right-side biased. I think an important part to my success this past week was knowing when to go for the left and when to take advantage of the skewed course. I think I did a good job of processing the conditions and making quick decisions. Having good starts also helped me, as I had the freedom to go where I wanted.

09 Sail Melbourne_Laser_Clay Johnson_Credit Sport the Library_Jeff CrowWhat were your challenges?

One thing that was different was the later start time than normal. Racing each day started at 3 PM, so it was tough to alter my regatta routine around a late-afternoon start. There was a lot of free time in the morning! I also think that mentally it was tough to sail at 6 or 7 PM when the sun was going down. The days felt longer than normal sailing days because we had so much time in the morning, and then it was a fire drill in the afternoon with sailing late into the day and all of the after-race tasks to do.

How were the conditions in Melbourne?

The conditions here were great. We had sun, temperatures in the 80s, 15 knots, and nice waves. It was fun racing!

Did you come to Sail Melbourne with set goals?

Coming into the event, my goal was to make the medal race and hopefully be in the top five. At the end of the event, despite the fact that I didn't win, I was pretty pleased to meet my goal and get a podium finish.

Why was it important for you to compete at Sail Melbourne?

Coming to Melbourne was a pretty big part of my 2010 schedule. This regatta was the first leg of the Sailing World Cup, so getting off to a good start was awesome. The end goal of my campaign is heading into the Olympics with a chance to medal. I think that coming to international regattas like this and doing well is important so that you know and your competitors know that you can finish at the top of the fleet. Doing well in Melbourne was a big step for 2010.

09 Sail Melbourne_Clay Johnson Paige RaileyHow did you prepare for this event?

After the Sail for Gold Regatta in September, I took some time off in October from sailing and spent a lot of time in the gym. In November and December, I did two 14-day training camps in Florida with some top international sailors. Those camps were very productive and really helped me prepare for the event.

Do you have any interesting travel stories from this trip?

This was my first time traveling to Australia, and I really enjoyed my trip down. I traveled with [Laser Radial sailor] Paige Railey [Clearwater, Fla.], and we arrived for the event at noon the day before! It was probably the latest that I have ever arrived before an international event. I was mostly worried about the time change, but it ended up not being that bad at all. It was definitely a fly-in, fly-out event, but a great experience.

To learn more about Clay, please visit his campaign web site: http://claysails.com/

For more USSTAG results from Sail Melbourne, please read the press release:
http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/Releases/Three_Silver_Medals_at_Sail_Melbourne.htm

To view pictures of USSTAG athletes in action at Sail Melbourne, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org/Multimedia/Sail_Melbourne_2009.htm

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About US SAILING and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics
The US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics (USSTAG) is managed by the United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for the sport of sailing and sailboat racing. The top boats in each Olympic and Paralympic class are selected annually to be members of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. US SAILING supports these elite athletes with funding, coaching and training. The title sponsor of the team is AlphaGraphics; other sponsors include Rolex Watch USA, Atlantis WeatherGear, Sperry Top-Sider, LaserPerformance, Harken, Team McLube, Bow Down Training, New England Ropes and Group Experiential Learning. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country. For more information about US SAILING, please visit: www.ussailing.org. For more information about the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics, please visit: http://sailingteams.ussailing.org.

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