March 28, 2011

Zachary Leonard ‘89 Named to U.S. Olympic Coaching Squad

Team Includes a Pair of Yale Alums

NEW HAVEN, Conn. –Zachary Leonard '89, Yale's McNay Family Director of Sailing, has been named to the U.S. Olympic coaching squad. Leonard will begin working immediately with U.S. Olympic hopefuls as a regatta coach in the women's double-handed dinghy class, the 470. Two of the six women Leonard will work with happen to be Yale alums: Isabelle Kinsolving-Farrar '02 and Sarah Lihan '10. 

Leonard's position with the U.S. team is part-time and therefore enables him to continue his work at Yale. He has run the Yale program since its inception as a varsity sport in 2002, and has led the Bulldogs to four national championships.

The women Leonard will work with directly are members of the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics (USSTAG) or its feeder, the US Sailing Olympic Development Team (USODT).  As members of these teams, the sailors are supplied with a great number of valuable resources, including result-based pay, logistical support, fitness and medical specialists and, most notably, high-level coaches.  While the team members in the 470 Class benefit from a full-time, staff training coach, Leonard will serve as the women's regatta coach.  This means that he will travel with the team to all of the biggest international events leading up to and including the 2012 Olympics. 

The closest upcoming events that he will be traveling to are major regattas that serve as parts of International Sailing Federation (ISAF) World Cup Series.  Leonard leaves Monday for Mallorca, Spain, where the first event of the Cup, the Trofeo S.A.R. Princess Sofia, will be held from Apr. 2 to Apr. 9.  After that he will coach at the French Olympic Sailing Week in Hyeres, France, from Apr. 23 until Apr. 29.  In June he and the team will travel to Weymouth, England, for the Sail for Gold Regatta which is also the first part of the US's new, two-part Olympic representative qualification system.  The second part of this qualification process will be the ISAF World Championships in Perth, Australia, in December.  Although his team back at Yale will miss him during the few weeks in April that he is gone, it works out so that those are the only timing conflicts.

Leonard worked with both Kinsolving-Farrar and Lihan when they were undergraduates on the Yale sailing team.  Lihan is new to the 470, but she has a strong laser radial background and is teaming up with an experienced 470 skipper.  Kinsolving-Farrar, on the other hand, has quite a deep 470 resume which includes being the 2008 women's 470 world champion.  Leonard says that the opportunity to work with these familiar faces again was definitely a factor that helped him solidify the decision to take the job.

Yale involvement on the 2012 Olympic sailing path goes even further than Leonard and the two Bulldogs he is working with directly.  Two other Yale alums will also be part of Team USA at many of the events where Leonard will be coaching.  Stu McNay '05 was the 2008 U.S. Olympic representative in the men's 470 class and is pursuing the games again this quadrennial.  Also, Elizabeth Kratzig '96 is campaigning in women's match racing.  All of these Yale sailors' levels of success in the sport of sailing testifies greatly to the strength of Yale's varsity sailing program. 

When asked what was most appealing about the Olympic coaching job offer, Leonard gave two primary responses.  Firstly, he is "excited to be able to help the upcoming teams", especially in a class with as much potential as the US women's 470.  Secondly, Leonard sees this as a special opportunity to learn a lot himself and to gain valuable experience working in a competitive climate of the highest level.

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity