Summer Spotlight: Mateo Vargas
Summer Spotlight: Mateo Vargas
School is out for the summer, and so is college sailing. Without a detailed practice and regatta schedule, young sailors across the country have to find alternative ways to keep their skills sharp and their sunglass tans sharper.We caught up with a handful of students to find out what they’re doing during these sunny months, ensuring that at least a few memories of Summer 2012 will outlast Orientation Week.
This summer, rising junior at Stanford University Mateo Vargas is not dedicated to any specific sailing program. Instead, he is cross-training while also working for a Stanford professor at a coveted research position that his sailing helped him to snag. Vargas recently competed at Laser North Americans at the Gorge (Cascade Locks, OR), but other than that has been sampling a little bit of everything that California in the summer months has to offer, from rock climbing to a shot at the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup.
What were Laser North Americans like for you?
I hadn’t been in the boat for a little while, especially in a non-college sailing setting with bigger fleets and bigger starts. I got third in the Laser Radial fleet behind Isabella Bertold and Al Clark. I was pretty happy with that because Isabella’s been training with Paige [Railey] for the last year, and Al is just a good sailor.
You’ve been experimenting with the relatively new sport of kiteboarding recently. What’s it like in the Bay Area in the summer?
I’ve been [kiteboarding] for the past year and a half or two years, and San Francisco is a pretty good place to kiteboard in the summer; it has nice breeze. With its pending addition to the Olympics, it’s really exciting with the big kiteboarding scene out here.
Could you see yourself pursing kiteboading over other sailing?
I’d have to give it a try on the raceboard—I’ve mainly just been doing freestyle and freeride stuff right now, but I think the speed would be pretty exciting, as would be wondering if you’re going to cross the other kites. It’s definitely something different from a lot of other Olympic class sailing opportunities, but at the same time I’m kind of a sucker for more traditional sailing.
You’re also a surfer. How do you think this affects your sailing?
I think that in Lasers it gives you an idea of how you want to position yourself on the waves, which makes for faster downwind sailing. For college sailing, when you get into more open venues and there’s large chop, knowing how to position your boat and having that surfing instinct helps a bit.
Aside from working out with a Stanford trainer, you’ve also been working on your fitness by rock climbing. What level have you been pursuing it at?
I kind of got into it earlier this year with another friend on the Stanford sailing team, Kevin Laube, and we both started just out of interest and knowing that it would be a really good workout. We’ve kept at it, getting outside to parks around the Stanford area and also keeping up with it in the gym.
You are part of the Youth America’s Cup hopeful Team City Front. How are you preparing for that?
Right now it’s largely in the organizational phase; we’re trying to figure out exactly what the selection process is as it has been changing a lot over the past month. So we’re just trying to get that nailed down and figure out how we can put our best foot forward, in terms of not only being selected, but also in proactively preparing for the Youth America’s Cup if we are to be selected.
Where will you be on the AC45 if your team gets chosen?
It’s unclear at this point. We have plenty of very competent skippers on the boat, and I think a good group of heads to call tactics as well, so I’m not sure what the positions would be. I think our main goal is getting selected, and as we progress and grow as a team, we’ll figure out how to make the fastest boat possible.
What of the sailing that you’ve done do you foresee being the most applicable?
In terms of physicality the Laser sailing is going to be quite beneficial; from what I’ve heard and from what I’ve watched [the AC45s] look to be quite physical boats. Lasers are physical boats as well; they may not have the speed of an AC45, but you need to be strong. In terms of the racing itself, if the courses are a little bit shorter—which I think they will be—I think that college sailing will be a great help: being able to play the fleet correctly and play the tactics in a confined area.
Instead of returning home to Florida for the summer, you chose to stay at Stanford to conduct research. What exactly are you working on?
I found a professor in the Mechanical Engineering department (which I’m majoring in), and I wrote to him and indicated that I’m a sailor and I’ve seen masts break. I think that’s actually what peaked his interest, and when we met up, he told me about his work on keel failure with Larry Ellison on some of the America’s Cup boats, so I think that’s actually why he gave me the position. I’m testing cyclic bending on metal, which is a lot of what you might see on a Laser top section, where you’re constantly pulling on the vang and constantly pulling on the mast. Essentially, we’re doing that with higher grade metal, and seeing how many times something like that can be torqued and fatigued before breaking. I hope to be able to take what I learned this summer and apply it in a sailing-related way.
You’re a big team racer. What are you doing to stay sharp this summer?
Thursday night team racing at Stanford with the few of us that are still around, combined with any other college sailors or anyone in the area. It’s just kind of informal, but helps to just stay in it and stay warmed up as much as possible.
You’re going to be missing out on the fall season of college sailing in order to go abroad to Chile. Will you continue practicing there?
I actually am attempting to. I was just looking last night, trying to find some regattas either in that area or in Buenos Aires, and I’m going to talk to some Argentinean friends to see if there’s any sailing coinciding. South American sailors are very good and have a little bit of a different style, so I think that would be very good to do.
How is your coach dealing with the news that you’ll be missing a full semester of sailing?
He’s very supportive about it; we talked about it and acknowledged that I’ll be missing opportunities to sail, but at the same time it’s something I’ve wanted to experience. I likely won’t have the chance again to study abroad, to take all Spanish classes, and attempt to become fluent. I’ll still be able to be a part of the team when I come back in the winter and spring. In what capacity, I’m not sure, but I’ll be there, pushing hard.
Know a student who's involved in something noteworthy this summer? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.