Thomas Barrows ’10 — first-time Olympian and captain of the Yale sailing team — sat down with the News to discuss his career at Yale and this summer’s Beijing games where he finished 21st out of 43 racing nations. In 2007, Barrows was named the ICSA Singlehanded National Champion. He was an ICSA All-American Skipper in 2007 and 2008.
Q: When did you first start sailing?
A: I learned how to sail when I was seven. Pretty much at the same time I went to my first regatta. It was at the local yacht club in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. They didn’t have much of a junior sailing program at the time, but it was turned into one with coaches and all.
Q: You now race internationally, how did that begin?
A: A friend was sailing nationally in the US, and I went to a national championship in the US and did really well — 9th for 15-year-olds and under. With that, I got into the US circuit and had some success. It gave me more of an idea of where I stood and how competitive I was. I got to the top level in the US, and started competing internationally when I was 11 or 12.
Q: Any specific memories from those first international regattas?
A: I went to the Optimist Europeans in Italy when I was 12. It was my first major international regatta. Going in, I didn’t have the highest expectations. But I did very well. I felt pretty psyched and fired up at the whole thing.
Q: The Beijing Olympics — How did you get to represent the Virgin Islands?
A: The Olympics were a really cool and all-around really good experience. The sailing was actually in Qingdao and not in Beijing itself. I got to go to Beijing afterwards and it was neat getting to go to the other events. I got to see the beach volleyball finals and I got to see track and field — the 200 meters. It was just really neat getting to watch the medal ceremonies. In sailing in my division — the laser division — Great Britain came in first, Slovenia second, and Italy third. The British team won the most medals across the different classes of sailing. Besides that [the winners] are pretty diverse: there are 11 different classes and the US only got a gold and silver. But [that medal spread] is pretty common.
Q: You sailed Lasers — one-man, one-sail boats — in the Olympics. Is this your class of choice when racing?
A: It is what I sailed when I got older. It is what I race internationally — in college we usually sail the double-handed boats. But Lasers are what I’m most comfortable with generally.
Q: Do you have anything to sum up the international experience?
A: Just traveling internationally is a lot of fun. This summer before I went to the Olympics, I sailed out of Belgium. It is neat to travel around and meet people from different countries.
Q: How does sailing individually compare to sailing for Yale, where you are the team captain?
A: It is a lot different being on a team and being a captain — it is much more of a team sport. The Olympics was more focused on myself. On the team, you have to get better yourself, but the team’s progress is also key. There is a very different dynamic. It is a lot more social and fun because there are so many people on the team. There are definitely a lot of benefits to being on a bigger team.
Q: What would you like to accomplish this season for the Bulldogs — either for yourself or the team as a whole?
A: Both of our national championships are at the end of the spring season — we want to do well there. The fall season is more of a warm-up. I’m sailing with a new person this year, Blair Belling ‘11, and we are just trying to get adjusted to sailing together. Next weekend we head to the Hood Trophy at Tufts.