Catching up with Daniela Moroz on Monday morning as she was driving to return Finn sailor Luke Muller’s van which she borrowed from him for her winter season in Florida, the 22-year-old shared her thoughts after a long albeit hugely successful week. She took home her fourth Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award, presented at the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards dinner during the US Sailing Leadership Forum held in St Petersburg, FL, and took first at the West Marine US Open Series/Clearwater, winning the three-series Florida event.
What does a fourth Rolex award mean to you?
DM: I guess it’s just a reflection of how I have been working over the past few years and how I’ve created a sustainable campaign and a sustainable system of just working hard. I am re-reading “Chasing Excellence” (it’s really good!) which talks about how passion will outperform drive every time so I think it’s also a reflection of my passion for the sport and for just trying to improve and work hard.
Looking back on your first award, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the six years since that first award?
DM: The biggest thing I’ve learned is honestly just come to me pretty recently is that time is your most valuable asset. Doing an Olympic campaign especially is a game of how well you spend that time and how you choose to spend your time and how you can optimize the time that you are given to maximize all your minutes. The nice thing about an Olympic campaign is that you know exactly how much time is left, so 536 days until the Games now, It’s a great equalizer and everybody is on that same deadline. Whoever makes the most of that time is probably going to be the most successful.
Does winning a fourth award feel different to receiving the first three?
DM: (Big grin) Yeah, a little bit. The first one was a bit of a surprise, but it was also like it’s just one. Once the second and third came around, I was like, whoa, are you guys sure I’m qualified for this (laughs hard) but it’s really special and I’m so happy to be able to share it with my family also.
If you had to name three things that helped you succeed in 2022 which culminated in you winning this award, what would they be?
DM: First, definitely my team who I have been working with – coach Chris and my technical advisor Nate. Second, not winning regattas over the summer – I think that forced me to change my approach a little bit and change my campaign and come back at the end. Third, just staying positive through the whole thing, it wasn’t always going the way I wanted it to go.
Emotionally, do you think that was the first time in your racing career that you’ve felt that?
DM: I felt it a little bit when I had first got into racing – 2014 and 2015, and even a little at the beginning of 2016 because I knew I was really capable of winning but I still had so much to learn and when it didn’t go my way I was pretty upset because I just wanted to win so badly. That feeling resurfaced last summer I was better able to handle it because I now have so much experience and I have really good people behind me so I know that this environment is very capable of producing good results so now its just about figuring out what we need to change going into the end of the year and into the World Championships in order to do that.
What advice do you have for other sailors shooting for the top?
DM: It’s good to have big ambitions and big goals but the biggest piece of advice is to really fall in love with the process and the daily grind. If you have a good definition of success then that success will come but you really have to fall in love with working hard and doing everything you can every single day in order to get better.
Moving on to your West Marine US Open Series/Florida success, tell us about the challenges, highlights, and competition?
DM: These events were pretty significant for qualification and I think the most challenging part of the selection process were the conditions. In Miami we had unreliable conditions so you didn’t know how many races you were going to get so you had to be a little bit conservative at the beginning because you wanted to put good scores up at the beginning of the regatta because you weren’t sure how many days of racing you were going to get in – that was one thing. It was kind of the same thing in Clearwater because the forecast wasn’t looking that good so we weren’t sure how many days of racing we’d get.
After the first day in Clearwater, I had one good race and one UFD and we only had two races that day so I had to sit with that for a couple of days. We couldn’t race on the second day due to conditions so I was definitely a bit antsy going into the third day thinking I really needed to get some good results and scores up but then it happened to be a tricky day conditions-wise. But, it was nice to see – also in Miami – a lot of things that Chris and I had really worked on in December come through. That was super rewarding. I’ve never been really good at pin end starts but all of those pin end starts we did every single day for three weeks in December (laughs) are finally paying off. I’m now super comfortable at the pin end!
That’s funny – what do you think your issue with the pin end has been?
DM: I don’t know (laughs) – I’ve always been pretty good starting at the boat or like in the first third of the line closest to the boat but any further to that I would always feel uncomfortable. I always liked having the option to tack out and that gave me so much comfort. Now I am finally comfortable maybe being a little bit pinned and then having to mode myself out of there, so go super high mode and maybe cut someone off then eventually be able to tack across. I used to be very uncomfortable with that but now, to be really confident in that position has transformed my racing and you could see that at this last event. I was really happy about that.
How was the competition?
DM: It was good. Lauriane Nolot (France) was in Miami, she was second at the Worlds last year, and in Clearwater we had the British girls and they’re all in the top ten and strong riders. It was nice to get some of the Europeans over and it was a nice way for me to check in with where I am at after the first bit of winter training – it was really the only opportunity to race between the Worlds last October and the Princesa Sofia regatta which will be in Spain in April. I’m pretty happy with where I’m at (big smile).
Who do you have shoreside during regattas to help you out and give you the between-races-support that is crucial?
DM: At the Worlds and in my training block before the Worlds, I brought Nate Housberg (Jamestown, RI) into my team and he was a huge help in the equipment optimization process. He also helped a lot on the beach when I was racing. Nate is moving onto to normal real life with a real job (!) so unfortunately I can’t work with him anymore so I trialed someone new at the Clearwater regatta – Tucker Atterbury (Santa Barbara, CA). He’s super excited to help out and be part of the team and see where I can make some gains. I think he’ll be a good addition to my team this year.
What’s your day to day looking like these days?
DM: When I’m training, I usually do a gym session in the morning then I’ll check in with Chris to see how the conditions are looking for the day. I’ll go home, have breakfast, and check the forecast and see what we’re looking at for the next few days. I’ll either head to the beach soon after that or if we have to wait then I’ll have lunch then head to the beach and usually do a two hour session, then come in, debrief and review any video that Chris took, do all my notes from the session, then cook dinner, do my recover routine in the evening – I usually wear compression boots for my legs, things like that, and go to sleep.
Are you pretty tired by the end of the day?
DM: Yeah, especially if we’ve been doing a routine like that for a week or so, I’m definitely feeling it by the end.
What are you going to do with your fourth Rolex watch?
DM: (Laughs) That’s a good question! I think I’m going to give it to my grandma – she came to the last two World Championships – she’s a big supporter!
St Francis Sailing Foundation Board Member JJ Fetter, also holds the distinction of being honored four-times as Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (’97, ’91, ’86, 2000). Here she shares HER memories of winning her fourth Rolex award 23 years ago.
Taking a trip down memory lane, what emotions do you recall about winning your fourth Rolex?
JJ: I remember it was such a special occasion at NYYC especially because I got to share the award with my Olympic teammate Pease Glaser! And we celebrated with my junior sailing instructor Mark Reynolds and his Olympic teammate Magnus Liljedahl. But it was also bittersweet because I knew it would likely be my last since I was stepping back from competing to focus on raising my two daughters (who were almost two and seven and hadn’t seen much of their mom in the final year of my Olympic campaign).
How old were you & what events had you succeeded in to get you the nomination that year?
JJ: I just did that math and I was 36 when I won the fourth award (yikes since it was quite a while ago!). Pease and I had won the silver medal in the Sydney games, so it was an amazing year, but you never take it for granted that you’ll get the award.
What did the fourth award mean to you?
JJ: It meant so much because my four Rolex awards span fourteen years. Being nominated is such a big honor, especially since, as we all know, it’s very subjective to try to compare sailing achievements across different sailing disciplines. There were certain years (such as when Pam Healy and I won the 470 Worlds in 1991) where we were nominated but didn’t win — so getting the watch is always special!
What advice do you have for Daniela as she works toward her first Olympics?
JJ: I’m so impressed with Daniela and the way she continues to set such a high bar for herself, especially when the rest of the world and all those well-funded Olympic programs are gunning for her. I’m not sure she has any weaknesses, but my advice would be to make sure she continues to be creative with her training plans to turn any weaknesses into strengths. Too often sailors practice their strengths (tactical teams always want to race, speedy teams always want to do line-ups).
What did you do with your four watches?
JJ: I gave my fourth watch to my dad, my third watch to my mom, my second watch to my Olympic teammate Pam Healy (who had deserved to win the award with me) and I kept the first one! But Rolex let me have a behind-the-scenes tour where they engraved my watch with all four years.
How do you view the work of the Foundation, not just grants but the high level mentoring, plays into successes like Daniela?
JJ: What I love about the St. Francis Sailing Foundation is that its support is transformative not only for top sailors like Daniela but also for the thousands of San Francisco public school kids who have had the opportunity to learn about sailing at Treasure Island. I was so honored the last few years to be an advisor to the Foundation and see the dedication of the Board. Pam Healy has recently finished her term as the President, and not only did she lead an amazing fundraising team, but she has been a wonderful mentor to so many of these Olympic and Olympic Development sailors.