Athlete Spotlight – Dane Wilson

Dane Wilson & Nevin Snow are the top US Men’s 49er team, winning the US Qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. If you can, try to catch Dane & Nevin’s live interview on US Sailing’s Starboard Portal here at 4pm EST

We caught up with this Santa Barbara native just before his interview. Dane’s been spending a lot of his time in quarantine doing functional training and mountain biking at home. Lucky for us the trails were closed today because of the rain.

Give us the your skiff history: I started in Sabots. It was a small pond here. When I was 12 or so, I graduated to the Opti. Then went full time to get as good as I could. We were home schooled at the time, so I worked really hard.

I sailed lasers for one regatta. Did 420s for one regatta. It wasn’t really that fun. I got into the 29er and linked up with Willie McBride who helped a lot. My skiff sailing has

Started sailing with my brother Quinn and we did really well. We had same background a “it was really easy to sail with each other when we weren’t mad at each other”

dane 1Quinn has a very high standard and is very vocal about his opinion. For some people it’s polarizing. But if you have a strong belief he respects that and it builds a strong relationship.

Both of us being really competitive. We weren’t afraid to tell each other what we thought.


Sailing with your brother, how does that prepare you for being a good teammate?

I think it translates really well with Nevin because he’s competitive and intense. You need that intensity to do well in sailing. Sailing with a sibling is the hardest thing to do. Sailing with Nevin is easier.

You get out of sailing what you want. You want that intensity to push yourself. I wouldn’t change that with Nevin or Quinn. Embrace it and understand where it’s coming from, that’s where intensity become valuable.

How about some highlights: Quinn and I went to two youth worlds, we got 4th and 6th at Youth Worlds and 8th at Open Worlds in Aarhus in conditions that didn’t match our sailing style. We were light, and they were all heavy air event, so I’m really proud of those events.

Ireland was really shifty. Cyprus was choppy and windy. Aarhus was a mix of ever possible thing you can imagine. It was our first time we were in Gold Fleet, so a lot

Dane 2Then tell me about your switch to kiting… I did two years of 49er skippering with Willie. It was great learning and more mature sailing relationship. I started to kite because it was cheaper and more accessible while in school. A great opportunity to train with Evan Heffernan and my brother Quinn.


What’s transferable between kiting and skiff racing? The skills come from thinking about stuff very quickly. Coming back to 49er, the boat feels slow, which is a good thing. The more high level you are in the kite, the faster things come at you. Kiting requires a lot of speed, so it’s less tactical and more speed based. Which isn’t to say it’s not tactical, just more emphasis. Sailing helps kiting more than kiting helps sailing.

What makes a good kite foil racer? You have to be fast. You have to be in control at all times bc mistakes are huge.

Dane 4What was it like getting back into the 49er  – It was a weird transition because kiting is more about fun. It’s cheaper, you can get on a plane with all your stuff and be there. Sailing requires more time and a lot more work. But its rewarding working every day and building a base.

I really enjoyed going back to sailing. Back to my roots. Crewing was something new for me. It was a really steep learning curve. For Nevin and I, it was an aggressive learning experience. Where a lot of people get 2 – 3 years, we got 9 months. My background as a skipper helped, and Nevin being a really good sailor he know’s what he wants and it really helped.

Congrats to you and Nevin, what are some things you two were focused on leading up to the trials?

Thank you. It’s an interesting thing, because there’s a big difference between the New Zealand Worlds and Australia Worlds. In New Zealand it was our first Worlds together. We felt good, we did well in practice. We weren’t thinking about the regatta at all. We just sailed and didn’t make many mistakes, and it showed in results. Being our first gold fleet racing it showed our inexperience. And we had to learn quickly.

There wasn’t much time between the two events, only about two months?

I think we learned a lot quickly. Australia was different because our goals shifted to more results based. We had a good lead going into the event, we tried not to think about it but it creeps in.

What did you focus on off the water? – Mental prep was our biggest thing for me, coming back to competitive sense. You just try let everything go off your back. A bad race or frustration, just let that go. We do a good job at coming back from frustration.

I was doing a lot of meditation before both worlds so that no matter what happened we could keep moving forward.

What advice would you give your younger self — Keep trucking. Nothing comes overnight. Even after Nevin and I sailed a lot before we met. Success is not immediate.

You need to do the little things every single day. When you bite off too much that’s when you get in trouble. Just like racing. The bigger risks you take, that’s where you get in trouble. When you rely on what you know, and you stay in your game. That’s when you succeed.”

Dane 3

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: