Zach Brown ’08 is many things:the top sailing recruit in the nation and a world-class competitor, the skipper who wears all black and a full face mask to regattas, and the subject of his own Facebook.com group. But it only takes one word to sum it all up — extreme.
The sailing career of the San Diego native is nothing short of remarkable. Since the son of two sailors was introduced to a boat at the age of seven, he has never left the water. At 14, he won the Balboa Pram Championships, a nation-wide regatta of 20 select boats, and in high school he placed first, second, and third at Youth Championships, taking him to Youth Worlds two years in a row.
These experiences brought the skipper to Yale with an extremely developed talent. He possessed team racing skills that some do not even develop by the time they graduate, sailing coach Zack Leonard said.
As a result of this talent, Brown was selected as an All-American athlete in his freshman year, and earned an honorable mention in his sophomore season. More than once he has led the Elis to a top national ranking. After his freshman year, he sailed a snipe at the World Championships in Japan.
Basically, Brown’s success comes down to his passion for sailing.
“He really loves to sail, he’s extremely competitive, he loves to practice, he loves to race and he works extremely hard,” Leonard said.
Leonard added that because of this, his captain makes it a lot easier to keep the team moving in the right direction.
Teammates agree that his attitude has helped them attain a higher level of sportsmanship.
“I think what makes Zach the sailor he is lies in his character,” teammate Hannah Oakland ’08 said. “He is an amazing combination of a great sailor and a caring teammate. His love for sailing is so obvious that it is actually contagious to everyone else.”
Brown, who loves both the social and the competitive aspects of sailing, has brought his talent beyond his own boat and into coaching. He has coached several sailors over the past few summers, and even coached one sailor to Youth Worlds.
“Coaching is cool because it pushes me as a sailor,” Brown said. “It helps me look at the course from an outside perspective.”
Even beyond sailing, friends note that the Southern Californian is a captivating presence. Brown is always excited and he’s always sharing his enthusiasm with others around him, roommate T.J. Myelle ’08 said. This lends well to the fact that Zach loves being around his friends and hanging out with his teammates.
In true Golden State fashion, Brown enjoys surfing with his older brother during his time at home, skateboarding around campus in ripped jeans, and calling everyone “Dude.” Brown also paints ocean scenes as a relaxing hobby. Many of his acrylic paintings, some as large as 36 inches, hang in the common room of the sailor’s TD suite.
Brown is also known for amusing sayings that come out at unexpected moments.
“He’s hilarious — he sticks his foot in his mouth more than anyone I know and refuses to back down,” Oakland said.
In fact, there is even a Facebook group, Deep Thoughts with Zach Brown, dedicated to Brown’s reflections on life’s biggest questions, such as “If you eat cow tongue, does it taste you?”
Aside from enjoying the amusement he provides, friends just seem to have a great respect for the sociable Brown. He was described as “fiercely loyal” and incredibly inclusive.
“He’s just a really quality guy,” suitemate Jason Karl ’08 said. “He’s really down to earth. People really like him because he’s got a great perspective on things.”
Though this perspective does include the desire to wear cotton American flag pants and chant “America” before races, it’s all a part of the questionably crazy character that is Zach Brown.
“Zach’s true description is the word extreme,” Myelle said. “Everything he does, that’s how it goes.”