One of our favorite aspects of being a company dedicated to sports is the omnipresent opportunity to meet sports lovers, from all walks of life. Meet Hoel Menard, a French dinghy sailor currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. At just 14 years old, he is quite accomplished and discovered his passion before he could even say the word "sail." Get inspired and hear about Hoel's journey through sailing!
Hoel Menard on sailing as a passion, and how it became his sport of choice.
How did you start sailing?
I started sailing in St. Malo, a town in Brittany not far from the border of Normandy in France. The first time I sailed I was when I was 3 months old. Since then, my passion and devotion to this sport has slowly gotten bigger.
Tell us about your journey through sailing.
I started sailing just for fun with my parents and at summer camps. As I turned eight, I joined the Richmond Yacht Club (http://www.richmondyc.org) junior program. They say “this club was built for fun” which is very true, and I am still a member to this day. After starting that program, I was eventually introduced into the San Francisco Bay racing scene. Two years later, when I was ten, I joined the San Francisco Yacht Club (http://sfyc.org/) - an intense racing program in the Optimist class, a small singlehanded boat. It is one of the most popular sailing dinghies in the world, with over 150,000 boats officially registered under that classification and many more built but never registered. The Optimist is recognized as an International Class by the International Sailing Federation. My best accomplishment, as an Optimist sailor, was being selected to join Team USA at an international regatta in Belgium.
What have you done since?
After becoming too tall for the Optimist, I started out on a new boat: the Nacra 15. This boat is a 15 foot catamaran, double handed and very fast. The Nacra 15 is the preparation boat for the Nacra 17, which is an Olympic class. This class is for mixed teams, and I presently sail with a female partner. The boat is known for its recent design and high performance. We can reach up to 25 knots or 29 mph, and my crew and I are always pushing for more knots. Our goal is to break this record and keep striving to beat our existing performance. My teammate, who is newer to sailing, and I are already competing at a national level.
What are the sailing trends these days?
Sailing is being revolutionized by "foiling" since the 2013 America's Cup here in San Francisco. Basically, sailing boats start literally "flying" above water, pushing the limits of speed. That's why I started sailing the "Waszp", an Australian single-handed boat, which is aimed at becoming the first foiling one-design class.
Any recommendations for aspiring sailors?
Sailing is a complex sport, as nature makes big calls - wind, waves and temperature can affect the race course dramatically. Brace for your experience to be very cold or very hot, and dress in layers. When I go sailing I like to bring the right assortment of attire or gear, like waterproof 5L dry-bags or neoprene gloves for harsh conditions. I also love salopettes for when I am coaching, which is my way of giving back to the San Francisco Yacht Club and the Richmond Yacht Club. San Francisco is a great place to sail because we can sail all year long, and the climate boasts a broad range of conditions.
Hoel's recommended starting kit for dingy sailors in the San Francisco Bay:
Hoel and his sailing mate on the Nacra 15 in front of Fort Mason
Photo by Regis Vincent
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Thanks for being a Decathlon Ambassador Hoel! Overwhelmed with inspiration like we are? Explore ways you can start sailing on the bay!