Georgetown's Chris Barnard shares advice that every sailor can put to use--know when to push yourself, when to cut yourself some slack, and how to stay in fighting shape.
After missing out on All-American honors in 2010-‘11, rising Georgetown senior Chris Barnard put results out of his head and focused on consistency in each race of the 2011-‘12 season—win on the water, and the accolades you deserve will come later, College Sailor of the Year Barnard says.
There were four finalists this year for the Morris Trophy, all highly qualified. Had you thought much about receiving this award?
All four of us sailed an incredible year, and I think all four were well deserving of receiving the award. At the banquet that night I was still on the high of winning Nationals and thought I had a chance, but I was really just happy to be in the top four and an All-American. To win the award was really a huge shock and honor.
What do you think changed from the year before, when you didn’t receive All-American honors?
My freshman year, I won All-American Honorable Mention and was really excited about that, and I think last year I focused too much on accolades like All-American instead of focusing on what I could control: results on the water. It showed at Nationals last year; our Nationals didn’t go as well and I didn’t get All-American. I was really disappointed, so this year I really tried to focus on improving and putting up the results I needed, which made winning the award and All-American that much more special.
Did you try to bring a certain mindset or approach to each event?
There are definitely what I would call peak events and build-up events, the peak events being the Nationals Championships, semi-finals, and ACCs [Atlantic Coast Championships]; I try to peak at those and win. At the others, I try not to get caught up in my results or how other people are doing; I just try to improve from race to race, regatta to regatta, and week to week.
What are your keys to consistency?
You need to have top-notch boathandling and boat-speed, and once you have that edge, you can be aggressive and confident in your tactics and strategy. It begins with being conservative on the start and getting off the line, and from there you can set yourself up to pick your way up the beat, read shifts, and play the fleet.
How have your experiences outside of college sailing helped shape the kind of sailor that you are today?
The international Laser circuit has really shown me the importance of physical fitness, which is often underestimated. It’s also emphasized what a real weapon top-notch speed is, but I think the biggest part is fitness—being able to sail as best you can and as hard as you can over the course of the regatta, from the first race all the way to the last beat.
What was your least favorite moment of the year?
Our last two weekends of the fall—the Singlehanded Championships in Chicago in November and then our Coed ACCs in Boston. At the Singlehanded Championships I didn’t sail very well and then at ACCs I was disappointed with how we performed as a team. I think it was a turning point for me personally over the course of the year; I don’t think I’d be the sailor I am today without those two tough weekends in a row.
How do you get out of a slump?
Focus, improve, and stay the course. Personally, I’m someone who’s always looking to work harder and harder, in the gym and on the water, and sail every weekend, but it’s just as important to recognize when you’re getting burned out and when you need to step back. Know when you need to take a weekend off, or take a week off from practice, and go out and have fun with your friends or get caught up with schoolwork. Take a couple notes if you have a bad weekend—what did and what didn’t work, and what you need to improve on.
You’ve stressed the importance of physical fitness. Any particular workouts you’d recommend for to stay in top sailing shape?
I think it depends person to person, but in sailing just like any sport you need to strike the right balance between physical strength and size as well as cardio. I try to do my best to build up my upper body, lower body and core as much as I can, as well as mix in plenty of cardio with rowing, biking, and running. Fitness is underestimated in college sailing, but it is what makes you successful in the international Laser circuit; the fitter sailors are always better.
You have one year of college sailing left. What do you see in your near future?
My personal goal is to win the Singlehanded Championships in November, which will take place on my home waters in Long Beach, Calif. Our team goals will remain the same, winning the Team Racing and Coed National Championships.
Do you have your eyes set on winning the Morris Trophy twice?
It would be a huge honor, but I’m going to do my best this year to have the same mindset I had this past year: focusing on my results and improving. As long as I focus on those goals and race as hard as I can, chances are that I’ll be happy with that and make my team successful. –A.Q.