Sarah Newberry: Sail for Gold

Sarah Newberry almost quit sailing because of a wedgie. She was 8 years old and enrolled in a Miami Yacht Club class with her best friend when the potentially life-altering event occurred.

"It's like playing chess with the wind."

One day, the friend's boat capsized on Biscayne Bay. The class instructor picked her up by the bathing suit and plopped her into his coach's boat. In solidarity with her humiliated friend, Newberry dropped the class.

But for a girl whose parents and grandparents loved the water, racing ran deeper than some preadolescent alliance. The Cushman School had a sailing club, and it was excellent, Sarah recalls. She wanted to show off to her fellow middle-schoolers. However, she quickly realized she had overestimated her knowledge. She was awful.

Sarah Newberry
Stian Roenning
Sarah Newberry

"It was the first time in my life I had to meet my own ego," she says. "It was late-onset competitiveness."

By 2006, Newberry had won the U.S. Youth Multihull Championship and enrolled at New College of Florida, a school with a sailing club that operates in Sarasota Bay. She was devastated when the International Olympic Committee didn't include her event in the 2012 London games.

Eventually the tide turned. Not only did mixed multihull racing make it back in for the next summer Olympics, but it also became a mixed-gender event. The sport had been dominated by men since its 1896 introduction to the games, but now each team needed a woman.

So she started a grassroots Olympic campaign funded entirely by friends, family, and sponsors. Besides having to drum up the cash to train full time, the 24-year-old also prioritized 6:30 a.m. workouts and almost nonstop touring. She helms the Nacra 17, and partner John Casey is the tactician who switches up the sails so the vessel can reach 23 knots.

"It's very demanding physically, but it's different from sports that are full intensity all of the time," she says. "It's like playing chess with the wind."

Unlike most Americans in the U.S. Olympic Development Program, Newberry occasionally gets to see her family. The Magic City hosts the only multihull world cup in North America, which means people from all over the continent ship their boats down here come winter. Although she's competing in places like Majorca and Holland for the rest of the year, Newberry calls North Miami home.

 
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