Since most of us are officially sizzling in the summer heat, we thought it would be a good time to interview someone who spends his free time doing one of our favorite pastimes, sailing. There is nothing like getting out onto a lake or ocean and cooling off with a great breeze and getting energized by the thrill of beating to windward.
Atlanta native Dan McGraw takes it to another level by traveling around America to race from Charleston, South Carolina to San Francisco Bay. Here he tells us how he got into the sport:
I have lived in land-locked states my whole life but that didn’t keep me from getting interested in and learning how to sail. It really started out as a way for me and my friends to hang out on Lake Lanier. A friend and I bought a 25 year old Tanzer 22 sailboat and taught ourselves how to sail. I spent a lot of time reading piles of books and spent weekends fixing it up and hanging out with friends.
Before long I was invited to join another boat for my first race and in the following years sailboat racing has become a highly dedicated hobby. At home on the lake I primarily race my Melges 24 (crew of 4-5) and my Laser dingy (a small Olympic-class boat for one person).
Racing larger boats on the open ocean is a bit hard when living in Atlanta, so for the last five years we kept a J-30 in Charleston which was seaworthy enough to race up and down the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, and was big enough to double as a our home while spending time in Charleston.
Most of my offshore racing now is in the San Francisco Bay area where we split a boat (an Express 27) with a friend –we make it out five or six times a year for racing inside the harbor and down the coast.
As for my personal style:
I’m tall for my weight so it can be hard to find a good fit. I’ve had good luck with Banana Republic slim fit stuff, and recently some Proof Blueprint jeans (found this brand thanks to reading The Manual!) which I love. If I find something that I like I tend to buy three or four pairs and not shop for jeans again for a while.
Day to day I wear a lot of American Apparel t-shirts. Once a year I’ll buy a bag of them (grays and blues) and I’m set. For work it’s mostly Club Monaco and Banana Republic slim-fit tailored button-downs. I like Penguin button-downs for dinner out.
For sailing I have a huge drawer full of long sleeve technical sailing shirts of every brand (most sailors d0) –but my favorites are from Zhik and Gill Marine. Basically just looking for things that dry fast, don’t get hot, and keep the sun off. The Zhik base-layer hydrophobic shirts can’t be beat in colder weather.
There is always a party at the end of an offshore ocean race, and suitcases do not do well on boats. I try to bring clothes that can be shoved into a dry bag, thrown into a locker, and come out a couple days later looking presentable. I had some Musto Evolution Polo’s that were perfect for this. Add a thin v-neck sweater in case its cold and I’m set.
For work and day to day (if I’m not in jeans) its usually slim-cut Club Monaco or Banana Republic pants.
I do not wear suits often –generally I keep 3 in rotation: Banana Republic in Light Grey (summer wedding), Hugo Boss Black (semi-formal anything) and Banana Republic Dark Grey (funerals and interviews)
Sailing is shoe-intensive: there’s dingy boots for the little boats (Sperry SeaHiker), neoprene sneakers for the keel boats (Zhik ZKGs), and full-on sea boots for offshore –I have a pair of red leather/Gortex sea boots made by Puma for their last Volvo Ocean Race campaign –great grip on a wet or dry deck, and they look really great.
I wear a lot of visors while sailing –they keep the sun off my face without overheating. Your basic beanies for winter sailing are my waterproof fleece-lined caps by Musto. No jewelry beyond a timing watch when sailing; I have a Casio Tri-Sensor which is indestructible, an Aquastar Regatta Match Race III, and a cheap Optimum Time sailing watch that is perfect for most races.
I created a category for Sunglasses as a good pair can really improve your experience on the water. For sailing I like polarized glasses by Kaenon – the best for seeing wind on the water. Off the water I am big fan of Serengeti aviators (becoming harder to find).
My lightweight, black Marmot zip-up jacket is very versatile. I can wear it at sporting events, hiking, or out to dinner. It packs easily, warm enough if you layer, and looks presentable (if you don’t destroy it). Great for a night out after a race.
On the boat you live and die by your foul weather gear (“foulies”). I like Gill KB1 tops and bottoms for the smaller boats: they are light, not bulky, and priced well. I just bought a set of Musto HPX Pro weather gear for offshore use which I’ve worn exactly once on a race from San Francisco to Monterrey and they kept me warm and dry.
Your favorite App:
Favorite piece of technology:
My Velocitek Prostart sailing instrument –it uses GPS to tell me how close to the starting line I am at the beginning of the race. My Plinius 9200 Amplifier has nothing to do with sailing but it’s a close second.
Next tech purchase:
I’ve been shopping for a turntable for the last few months. I think it will be a Rega RP8 but I’ve not decided on the cartridge yet.