Just turned 29 years, Nick Dana fulfills one of the Volvo Ocean Race under 30 year old crew requirements for Team Alvimedica. But Nick also grew up in the current stopover of Newport and he is, by the way, now a veteran of three races. Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck chatted with the local boy as he prepared for the seventh leg to Lisbon…
How would you rate the Newport stopover?
We talked about it during the past couple legs of what it would be like, but still did not know what to fully expect. We knew the people involved building it and organizing it so we had a decent idea that the village would be good, but what’s been most striking is the overwhelming fanfare. Comparing it to the last race, there were more people for the fifth place finisher at 4am on Thursday in Newport than the 2011-12 race leg winner in Miami, which was an American boat, at 2pm in the afternoon.
Newport is a town, and not a large city that the Volvo Ocean Race often visits. It could be seen as a gamble for the race to stop at a small community, but Galway, Ireland demonstrated in 2009 the kind of support the race can receive from a town that embraces sailing. I grew up here; I am very proud. Newport truly is the sailing mecca in the US.
Tell us about your sailing experiences growing up.
My family owns Newport Shipyard, which is a hub of marine activity. It is a town within a town. It has its own culture. Everyone that’s part of the yachting community in Newport is familiar with it. When I am home, that’s my first stop in the day. It’s where I grew up. The guys that work there taught me what I know. I owe a lot to that yard.
I did some dinghy sailing here and there when I was young, but I got into sailing more from a mechanical standpoint. I learned how to run boats and did a lot of keelboat racing. Growing up at the yard I was exposed to the big boat world and would say yes to the opportunities that came my way. That’s how I approached it, and I ended up doing a lot of miles at a very young age. To where I am now, that foundation has been invaluable. It gave me the experience and confidence to deal with the challenges of offshore sailing, and offshore sailing is what I love.
So I put in the time, but I am still pinching myself that this is happening. Coming to Newport has reminded me how surreal it is to be competing in the Volvo Ocean Race. When I was building my career, and sailing on better and better boats and getting involved with better projects, I never lifted my head for air. But now here I am, already having circumnavigated the world, and the race ends next month. It has all happened really fast. I haven’t digested the gravity of it all but I feel very fortunate.
How did you get involved in the Volvo Ocean Race?
When Kenny Read was organizing his Puma team for the 2008-9 race, he and the team shore boss Neal Cox brought me along and gave me an opportunity on the shore team. I am very grateful, but it’s what’s great about the sport, how a young person can find a way in to get exposed and to learn what it takes to compete at this level. I was willing to do anything, and they threw me a bone. And that hasn’t changed; I am totally open to learning whatever I have to do stay involved.
When I was the onboard reporter for Abu Dhabi during the 2011-12 race, that wasn’t what I hoped for but it was the opportunity that presented itself. I had been their boat captain during their training period before that race, as they had bought the Puma boat to use as they built their new boat, but I was actively seeking to become a member of their race team. But then I injured my knee, which didn’t help my chances to make the race crew. However, the team’s skipper, Ian Walker, threw me a bone and asked me about being their onboard reporter.
So there I was, out of my element, with no video or writing experience and limited photography experience. But I took it on and did the best I could. It was another opportunity that I said yes to and learned a lot. I gained some media skills, but I learned a lot about the race, and I suppose I learned a lot about myself. I certainly don’t regret it, as I know it helped to prepare me for where I am now.
After nine years, this has become my life. Taking on the various new tasks that come with this race is fun for me. I love to learn and have gained the confidence to take it all on.
What is the attraction of the Volvo Ocean Race?
I like the circus. I like being part of this community. I feel at home, being around all the people that are involved in the race. The shore teams, the support personnel… it all reminds me of the boatyard atmosphere that I grew up within. It all feels natural. As varied as it is, there’s also stability within it. It doesn’t much matter where we are, because the race village and community moves with us. We could be in Newport or China and I have the same feeling.
I do love the traveling. I haven’t been on a plane since October, but have covered close to 38,000 miles. Once we get to the stopover, I grab my surfboard and go on an adventure. That’s been my approach for the past three editions. The race has gotten me to some great places, and have met so many new people. I now have a good group of friends in the US but also in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Seems like wherever I am, I am not much more than an hour away from having someone I can stay with. The road has become my home.
What is ahead for you after the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 ends in June?
I need to deliver the boat from the final finish in Sweden back to Spain, and afterwards have a few events lined up such as the Fastnet and Maxi Worlds. I am not taking too much of a break… just getting straight back into it. But I definitely have an eye toward the next Volvo Ocean Race. It is what I do and love.