Portsmouth, R.I. (October 19, 2010 ) – As the top U.S. team, Greg Thomas, of San Diego, Calif., and crew John Williams, of Long Beach, Calif., secured the Pan Am Games Hobie 16 berth at the recent Hobie 16 North American Championship, in Lake Mohave, Nev. US SAILING talked to Thomas about the regatta and what it means to represent the USA at the 2011 Pan Am Games.
US SAILING: Congratulations on winning this regatta. Why was this event important to you?
Greg Thomas: Having the chance to represent the USA at a large event such as this has always been a goal of mine. I’ve done two Olympic campaigns on the Tornado with the goal of going to the Olympics, but fell short in each of those ventures. Winning this event will now give John and me the opportunity to go to the Pan Am Games and see if we can come away with a medal.
US SAILING: What were your strengths in this regatta?
Greg Thomas: This regatta was tough for us as this is not the primary boat for either of us sail. We didn’t have time for any training before the event except for a couple hours the weekend before the regatta. I’d say that our strengths were starts and tactics. We didn’t have the best boat speed of the group, but it always seemed like we got off the start line in a good position, and we put ourselves on the correct side of the course in a favored position over our competitors. It was going to be a long week of sailing with lots of races in varying conditions, it was a lake after all, so we knew that there would be some big scores posted by everybody, us included. Staying positive on the boat when things weren’t going great was a big help. Anybody who’s ever sailed with or been around John can attest to his positive attitude, which definitely helped.
US SAILING: Any lessons learned that you’ll take to the Pan Am Games?
Greg Thomas: I think the number one lesson learned for myself is that more time on the boat is needed in the next year to get the boat speed that will be needed to win the event. Our qualifier event (the Trials) had 50 boats, and I think that boat speed wasn’t as much of a factor as tactics and positioning. However, the Pan Am Games will likely be 15 boats or fewer and boat speed will be much more important in that size fleet. We have a pretty good idea who has the speed needed to be competitive in this fleet, so next year our plan is to try and sail as much as possible with those groups to learn as much as we can from them and get up to speed.
US SAILING: How much competitive sailing do you do in a typical season?
Greg Thomas: Nowadays my sailing schedule is just a small sliver of my past where I was sailing full-time doing the Olympic campaigns, the last one in 2000. Right now I’m down to one world championship, one national championship and two or three local regattas a year, which is not a lot of sailing but it is very competitive sailing. Even at our local regattas in Southern California we have names like Pete Melvin, Jay & Pease Glaser and Matt Struble to compete against, so when we are able to get out locally the talent is there to keep us up to speed for the bigger events.
US SAILING: What other Hobie 16 notable achievements do you and/or John count?
Greg Thomas: Not a lot of Hobie 16 achievements as I don’t spend too much time on that boat. The F18 class is probably where I’ve had my most success the past few years.
US SAILING: Anything else you want people to know?
Greg Thomas: Sailing with John is quite the experience, I don’t think I’ve ever had so many random songs sang to me while sailing. Not only does he keep the mood light and upbeat on the boat, but he’s also a very knowledgeable sailor able to point things out that I don’t see and feed me the information that I need without me having to look around to see for myself. Having only sailed together a few times before this I fully trust his opinions on the boat without hesitation, which is something that’s not easily done between teammates even after sailing for years. I look forward to this next year sailing the Hobie 16 and competing with John.
US SAILING: What will you look forward to at the 2011 Pan Am Games?
Greg Thomas: Just having the opportunity to go is a pretty big deal for me, so I really am looking forward to the experience and plan to enjoy it as much as possible.