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Second Oakcliff grad called up to the big leagues

by Oakcliff Sailing 15 Feb 2019 11:29 PST
Sean joins American Magic shore crew © Oakcliff Sailing

Sean O'Halloran, a graduate and staff member of Oakcliff Sailing, has been selected to join New York Yacht Club's American Magic, Challenger for the 36th America's Cup, as a member of the shore crew. As an American Magic training partner, Oakcliff works with the team to train and identify potential America's Cup sailors and support personnel. Together, the two organizations are working to raise the bar in U.S. professional sailing.

In October 2018, sailors, coaches and support staff from American Magic visited Oakcliff's campus in Oyster Bay, New York for a week of training with graduates of Oakcliff's Acorn and Sapling programs. Based on this training week, along with a trial run at American Magic's winter base in Pensacola, Florida, O'Halloran was selected for a shore team position.

Watch the video recap of American Magic's Training Session at Oakcliff.

O'Halloran grew up in San Jose, California, and learned to sail at an early age, but it wasn't until college that his passion for sailing became a major focus. He earned a spot on his college team through determination and countless hours of studying videos of sailing technique. After graduation, O'Halloran went into the culinary industry but sailing was never far from his thoughts.

O'Halloran got his first taste of the America's Cup when he started crewing on USA 76, a retired IACC boat that is similar to the yachts Oakcliff Executive Director Dawn Riley raced in her campaigns for the Cup. O'Halloran became aware of Oakcliff when he competed in the 2015 Block Island Race Week on a J/122 and saw one of Oakcliff's turbocharged Farr 40s in action. Oakcliff's Sapling program was the perfect way to kickstart his career, and shortly after graduating from the program, O'Halloran was hired as a boat captain at Oakcliff.

O'Halloran is currently working at American Magic's winter base in Pensacola, Florida where the team is running tests on "The Mule," a 38-foot test platform for the AC75. "The biggest challenge is that there is something new every day," said O'Halloran. "You never what's going to pop up. Luckily, when I was at Oakcliff there was so much to do that I got experience with a little bit of everything. It made me comfortable taking on new things and pushing the boundaries of what I was capable of."

"The days are long, especially sailing days," continued O'Halloran. "We regularly work 10-14 hour days. One of the coolest parts is being surrounded by such an accomplished group of sailors. Nearly everyone has worked on a Volvo or America's Cup campaign before and they really understand what it takes to win."

O'Halloran is the second Oakcliff graduate to join American Magic's team. Last winter, Oakcliff's High Performance Fleet Manager and MIT Engineering graduate Robyn Lesh was hired to work as an engineer on the design team. "We are all really excited for Sean," said Oakcliff's Training Program Director, Ethan Johnson. "It was a great way to start the 2019 Oakcliff year."

The partnership with American Magic is one of several that enhances Oakcliff's Professional Development Program. Other recent success stories include placing students with Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team Alvimedica, run by Oakcliff graduates and Volvo Ocean Race veterans Charlie Enright and Mark Towill. Other students and graduates have sailed with Rick Warner, the owner of Areté, an ORMA 60 trimaran in the Great Lakes seeking to break the Chicago to Mackinac Island speed record.

"There is no clear mechanism in sailing to go from desire to reality," said Riley. "That's why Oakcliff exists. We push our trainees to hone their craft and learn the skills they need to be able to grab opportunities and excel."

"Hope is not a strategy; you have to have a plan," said Oakcliff board member Karin McKinnell-Leidel. "If you're serious about becoming a professional, you need to take action and there is no better first step than getting involved with Oakcliff."

When asked what advice he would give to a young aspiring sailor, O'Halloran says attitude is key. "Be humble and be a good person. Surround yourself with opportunities to grow and learn new skills, or improve on old ones. Don't be afraid to ask questions. It's such a small industry and it really rewards people who work hard and don't try to show off."

If you'd like to apply to Oakcliff's 2019 Summer Programs, you can learn more here.

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