By: Michelle Slade, St. Francis Sailing Foundation
When Daniela was first introduced to the StFYC community, she was a young woman who was charging hard at Crissy Field, quickly rising to the top of the local kiting scene. At 16, she became the youngest-ever recipient of the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Award and was recently named as a Nominee for the Award in 2017. She is the two-time Women's Kiting World Champion. To us, she's a hometown hero. The St. Francis Sailing Foundation interviewed Daniela this fall to learn about her path thus far, and what's next for this remarkable sailor.
Photo Courtesy of Toby Bromwich
How did you train for the Worlds?
I trained a lot over the summer and tried to get some time in light wind conditions, which was my weakness last year. Once school started, I didn’t have as many opportunities to train outside of events, so I tried to make up for that by going to the gym and swim practice and paying attention to what I was eating.
Going into this event, I knew there would be A LOT of expectations of me to win. Personally, I hate having expectations because it is so disappointing if you don’t do what you expected to. It was difficult to tune all of that out at first, especially traveling to Oman for the event. On the training day, I was pretty stressed out, but as soon as racing started, something clicked and I didn’t worry about the possible outcomes. I just focused on what I had to do, race by race. It worked out pretty well in the end!
What aspect did you feel you were particularly strong at?
One of my strengths was being able to mentally tune out all those expectations and just focus on my racing. Racing in strong wind is also a strength for me, being from San Francisco. Something I improved on this year was understanding my gear and knowing how to adjust my kites. Last year, I was brand new to it and honestly afraid to do it on my own—I always had a teammate help me. But this time I felt more confident. On the last training day, I went out on a kite that I had not spent too much time on and it did not feel the way I normally like. I felt much more confident about coming in and adjusting the knots to the way I felt would be better. It’s minor, but it made a big difference. That kite, an 11m, ended up being perfect on the windy day and it made me trust my own judgment.
How were the conditions?
We had a variety of conditions throughout the week. I think that’s the best kind of event because that way only the true best people can win because they have to be good in everything. We raced in everything from 6 knots on the morning of the first day to 22–25 knots on the second day. I used almost every kite I registered.
What equipment were you on?
Ozone R1 V2s and Mike’s Lab board and foil.
How did the competition compare to last year? Who were you looking out for the most?
I think the overall level of the women’s fleet has improved a lot. Elena Kalinina (RUS) is strong in light wind, as I saw at Worlds last year. I was definitely looking out for her when it was light. Alexia Fancelli (FRA) has improved a lot over this season, and I was surprised at her speed when it was windier. I felt like I kind of knew most of the girls’ strengths and weaknesses, but I focused on my own race.
You were strong from the get-go. What were your defining moments of the competition?
I felt pretty good after the first day, winning all but one race. I tried to be consistent and sail clean. The second day was the windy day when we were on 11ms, and I loved those conditions. I think my defining moment was after the second day. I had won 10 out of the 12 races we’d done so far and it gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the week.
What’s next for a two-time World Champion?
I HAVE to focus on finishing junior year! It’s a tough year, so I really want to just keep my grades up. Other than that, I love what I’m doing and I’m going for #3 next year!
Photo Courtesy of Toby Bromwich