Female Frontiers QuestChat Archive
Date: February 23, 1999
Featuring: Dawn Riley
Captain/CEO of America True
Auckland, New Zealand
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 14 - 08:35:28
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[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 15 - 08:37:19
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[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 21 - 09:03:55]
Hello everyone, I am sitting in the office in Auckland New Zealand waiting
for your questions.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 22 - 09:04:13
Hello and welcome to today's Female Frontiers chat with Dawn Riley. Dawn
is captain and CEO of America True. She is the first woman to manage an
America's Cup sailing team. She is also the first American to have raced
on two America's Cup teams and two Whitbread Round-the-World sailing teams.
America True is using NASA technology to design the boat that Dawn and
her crew will race in Auckland, New Zealand during America's Cup 2000.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 23 - 09:04:30
And now, here is Dawn Riley to answer your questions.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 27 - 09:06:16
What is it like down here? It is very dark because it is still 6:00 in
the morning. The temperature is somewhere around 70 degrees and a front
must be coming through as the wind really picked up last night. It was
blowing the windows shut in my apartment.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 28 - 09:09:29
How does it feel to ride on a boat?
This is a hard question to answer over the web. Basically every boat is
diffrent. Overall, the feeling is amazing on a sailboat because you and
the wind are powering the boat. It's a very peacful thing. Of course when
you get into competition it changes a lot because the [crew of the] other
boat are trying to do everything they can to make you go slow and it is
not very quiet.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 30 - 09:12:56
Do you think it will be hard for me to be a team captain someday?
Becoming a team captain is something that is earned by both being good
at what you are doing and leading by example. With America True, I have
the experience and have done a lot of the organization so that is why
I am the team captian. I think the best was when I was in high school
and was named team captain of the track team. The rest of the team voted
me into that position. That was a real honor because it wasn't a 'popularity
contest' it showed that they respected me.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 32 - 09:17:32
Why is NASA helping you build the ship?
Everyone knows that NASA designs space craft but many don't realize that
they develop 'truckloads' (a New Zealand word for: a lot!) of other things
that we use everyday. This includes drinking straws and velcro. We are
very excited to be working with NASA because we are both developing technology
which can help both of us. NASA is helping us regain the America's Cup
... for America.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 34 - 09:20:57
RE: [Alex/PotomacMD] Hello Dawn, How
did you come with the idea to run your own America's Cup team?
I always knew from when I was about 13 years old that I wanted to sail
in the America's Cup. (I also wanted to become a teacher, work in advertising
and win an Olympic medal in skiiing. It is good to set lots of goals so
you can reach some of them.) The idea to do my own team was an evolution
of my past experiences. This is my 3rd time in the America's Cup. I felt
that I had enough to give as a leader to make me 'take the leap' and lead.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 38 - 09:25:52
RE: [Jennifer/AustinTX] How do the interactions
of a coed teams differ from an all-male team?
What I like about a coed team over an all male team is that everyone is
there because they are the 'best person' for the job, not because they
are a 'guy' and they are good... or they are a 'girl' and good. A coed
team tends to be a team where people are more self confident and are more
open to alternative ideas. As a side note: I get asked this question quite
a bit and I think it is a little bit funny because I am a 'girl' so I
don't know 100% what it is like to be a part of an all male team :-) I
do have a pretty good idea because when you are the only one and you do
your job well the 'boys' kind of forget that you are there.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 39 - 09:30:51
RE: [Caroline] Where is your favorite
place to sail?
I think New Zealand is my overall favorite place to sail because it is
always changing and the coastline is beautiful and dramatic. I also like
sailing in Georgian Bay off of Lake Huron because it is very remote. Finally,
I like sailing on the East Coast from Maine to Key West Florida, because
many of my friends are there. If you have a moment look up these places
on the maps and you can kind of see why it is good to sail here (lots
of coves and harbors).
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 45 - 09:38:30
What kind of education do you need to sail?
At first one might think that you don't need to concentrate too much on
education to sail or to do other sports. This is not the case. In sailing
you need to be good technically and be able to speak and communicate well.
Technically: When you are trimming a sail (adjusting it for the wind to
make the boat go fast) you need to understand the loads of the sail and
the lines. You also need to be able to calculate what speed the boat should
be going at that time with the conditions that you are sailing in. Logic:
The afterguard needs to be able to think through every possible move and
anticipate what the other boat may do and counteract that move. They need
to be able to add and subtract instantly using a compass. This means that
when you get to 360 you have to start over. Everyone can try this: If
you are using a compass and the wind is blowing out of 347 degrees and
you are taking through 80 degrees what course would you sail on each tack?
Finally it is VERY important for any athlete to be able to write and communicate
well. This is for talking to the media, giving speeches and writing reports
for internal use. We spend more time on the computer than you might think.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 46 - 09:41:14
As a reminder, at the conclusion of today's chat, please share your thoughts
with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 48 - 09:42:17
RE: [Estel] I'm a Korean girl Estel
Bae. I'm really good at maths & science and interested in aeronautics.
But I'm afraid that ther will be many difficulties for me to enter in
NASA, because of I'm an Asian woman. What do you think of it?
Estel, I think you have an excellent chance of entering NASA. We really
are getting to a point in America where if you are very good at what you
do you can go where you want. It is not always easy but you should keep
reminding yourself that diversity, being a girl, is an advantage not a
disadvantage. It means that occasionally you have had someone try to slow
you down because you are 'different' and yet you have ignored it and still
won. This means you will be a stronger, more creative and better person.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 49 - 09:46:11
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] How many
times did you fail in sailboating and why did you get back on track? -Amber
What makes sailing so exciting is that you WILL fail at some point in
every race. Not only do you have the other boats trying to beat you, but
you have the wind and weather and currents always changing and they can
make you loose. What this does is force you to accept that sometimes "it
just wasn't meant to be". With that said, every time we either win or
loose we have a debrief after and try to learn from the situation so the
next time we go out there we are a little bit smarter and have EVERY intention
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 51 - 09:55:17
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] DEAR Dawn,
How did you choose the member of your team? What criteria did they need
We look at a number of things: Strength - how many chin ups, push ups
and sit ups can you do? Size - some positions require someone around 160lbs
while others like the grinders are best if they are 220 - 260lbs. Sailing
ability - what the person has sailed on in the past and what success they
have had. Attitude and stability - an America's Cup campaign is a very
long project where the team members see each other more than they see
anyone, even their family so each person has to be committed to the team,
be able to handle stress well. Uniqueness - This is one that is not always
recognized as necessary. I think having someone who has a strong 'personality'
is good for the team. When you get a chance look at our web site http://www.americatrue.org and under 'team'
look for Roo Stevenson. He is a 'charachter'. :-) We didn't only look
for people we knew in the past like many teams do. We were the only team
to have open tryouts and we got quite a few good people from that process.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 52 - 09:58:58
Did you ever feel like you wanted to give up sailing?
Sometimes when I am tired and hungry and salty and just lost a big race
I want to quit. I have a number of ways to 'shake myself out of the slump':
Call my Mom or a close friend, get a hug from my boyfriend, try to help
someone else fix their problems and mine seem not that important, go for
a long walk or just look at the water that is beautiful and relaxing.
Everyone feels 'down' sometimes; you just need to know what to do for
yourself to keep on going.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 55 - 10:02:58
RE: [Alexa] In middle school or junior
high were you good at math and science?
In elementary school I was VERY BAD at math and just didn't do the lessons.
Nobody noticed for a couple of months and then my mom and the teacher
found out. I was in big trouble and had to stay after school every night
for an hour to catch up. It wasn't fun until I started to understand math
and then it became easy. I was always good at science because it was more
of a 'story' to me and it seemed easy to see science all around me when
I was outside on the water and generally 'in nature'.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 88 - 15:40:24
How many people are in the Americas cup team?
There are 16 people on the boat at one time but we have 30 sailors so
we can replace people when they are tired or injured. On top of the sailors
we have about 50 people in the rest of the organization.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 89 - 15:42:11
Were any of your races before, rocky?
Besides the America's Cup, I have also done two Whitbread Round the World
Races and in those we had many days where the waves were over 20 feet
tall. This is as tall as a 2-stroy house. Some days they were up to 50
feet tall. That was rocky!
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 90 - 15:43:12
Are you married do you have any kids?
I am not married and I don't have any kids but I do have a really cool
boyfriend who likes to sail, but for fun, not for work.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 91 - 15:58:45
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] How many
different positions have you been on any crew? Diana - 6th grade
I have done just about every position on the boat at one time or the other.
When you are working on a sailing team everyone must be coordinated. To
do this you specialize on one position but you understand all positions.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 92 - 16:00:27
Do you feel sick when you are in a race on the ocean?
I have been lucky and have only been seasick once in my whole life. Some
people are not that fortunate. If you are on a boat and start to feel
queasy, you need to stay in the fresh air, make sure you are not hungry
or don't have to go to the bathroom and try to stay relaxed. Many times
people get sick when they get nervous.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 93 - 16:03:02
RE: [Caroline] What's the worst weather
conditions you've ever been in sailing?
The worst conditions were when we were rounding Cape Horn in the second
round of the Round the World Race and the current was flowing at 8 knots
against a 60 knot wind. This caused the waves to break like they do on
a surf beach. By the end of the 20 hours that we were in these conditions
everyone was bruised and cut up but we did survive and got to the finish
in Punta del Este.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 94 - 16:05:20
RE: [April] My teacher raced against
you in college and several Mackinaw races. Do you remember Bruce Geffen?
That is a small world. It is an amazing thing about sailing: you meet
a lot of people and then 10 (or so) years later you come across them again.
I never say "Good bye" to a sailor, I just say "See ya". Say hello to
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 95 - 16:08:40
RE: [AvaD] what was the hardest task
you ever had to complete?
I don't know what the hardest thing was. Every day there are challenges
that I think are insurmountable and then when it is all over they don't
seem so bad. Some wise person said half of what you worry about doesn't
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 96 - 16:11:30
How many hours do you get to sleep during a race?
On the Round the World Race, you are on deck for 4 hours and then below
for 4 hours rotating 24 hours a day. In the 'below' or 'off' time, you
eat, brush your teeth, send e-mail and try to sleep. Overall you get about
7 hours of uninterrupted sleep a day. By the end of a 30 day leg you are
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 97 - 16:13:40
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] Who influenced
you or what happened to start your obsession with sail racing? Amanda
- 6th grade
I was always around boats and sailed with my family when I was little,
but the day my obsession started was the day I went racing on my own.
This was the day that I realized I liked the competition and the stress.
Some days I think I am crazy but most days I still love it.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 98 - 16:15:56
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] What other
sports besides sailing and skiing do you like? Have you ever competed
in any other sports? - Ben & Zach
I sail & ski a lot but I was also on the swimming, cross country and track
team. I threw shotput and discus in track.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 99 - 16:23:13
RE: [Caroline] what part of the world
has the worst weather for sailing?
Cape Horn is the traditionally the worst area for weather. It is cold
and the weather system as well as the currents are all compressed there
because it is where the land is closest to Antartica. When current and
weather systems are compressed the flow faster.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 100 - 16:25:14
RE: [MrsHaack/Westhampton] How many
awards or trophies have you won for competing in sailboat racing? - Heather
I have won a lot of awards and trophies but for some reason they don't
mean that much. What I like the most is the feeling of winning just at
the moment when you realize that your team is the best! Of course there
is always another race so you can't sit around and polish your medals.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 101 - 16:26:19
How long is the race?
The Whitbread Round the World Race is 33,000 miles long and takes 9 months
to complete. The America's Cup is made up of many shorter races and we
go home every night. These races are about 20 miles long.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 102 - 16:28:02
Is your job dangerous?
There are definitely some dangers in sailing. People get injured and occasionally
loose fingers. Because of the loads that we deal with it is very important
to be as safe as possible.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 103 - 16:30:41
RE: [Caroline] i'm from michigan, and
i sail a whole lot. Georgian bay is probably one of my favorite places.
Caroline, I am going to answer both of your questions at once. There is
no age limit for sailing in the America's Cup but the youngest are usually
19 or 20. This means they have had time to grow up and get strong, finish
school and get smart and are still young enough to be very excited to
work hard. I am glad that you like Georgian Bay too. Maybe I'll see you
up there in a couple of years.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 104 - 16:37:27
RE: [Caroline] who are you rooting for
in the around alone race?
I was rooting for Isabell because she is a good friend but now that she
has been rescued, I just hope that they all finish safely.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 105 - 16:40:34
How did you show the people that you are serious about racing?
I showed people that I was serious by being as committed and professional
as possible. I would always be at the boat early, help get it ready, try
to be one of the last ones to leave and never pull a 'no show'. It is
good to have fun but when the racing starts you have to concentrate.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 106 - 16:56:08
RE: [Caroline] What's your favorite
race to sail in?
I like match racing and the America's Cup because the start is very aggressive
and exciting and you do a lot of individual races in each regatta.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 107 - 16:58:49
RE: [Naomi/ChicagoIL] What do plan on
doing after you win the Cup?
I am not sure what I want to do after we win the Cup. I need to keep focused
on that goal at the moment. After, I only hope that I will have some time
to sleep and get recharged and then move into the next project.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 108 - 17:00:54
RE: [Alexa] I just tried to sail a while
ago and really enjoyed it. Did you have trouble with it in the beginning?
I was lucky because I have sailed since I can remember. Every time I push
myself harder I am a little frustrated when I make mistakes but overall
I love improving and just plain sailing.
[ DawnRiley/NewZealand - 57 - 10:07:16
Goodbye for now everyone. I need to go and join the rest of the team in
the gym. Today is circuit training. This means that we all go around a
circuit of weight machines and do as many repetitions as we can in 30
seconds and then move onto the next machine. It is kind of like musical
chairs but everyone has a chair and we sweat a lot. We get strong and
fit this way.
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 56 - 10:05:00
At this time, we would like to thank EVERYONE for joining us for today's
chat with Dawn Riley. Our special thanks to Dawn for her thoughtfulness
and sharing her experiences and expertise with us today!
[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 53 - 10:00:31
Once again, please share your thoughts about today's chat with us at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/qchats/qchat-surveys.
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[ Oran/NASAChatHost - 54 - 10:01:37
We hope you can join us for our next Female Frontiers/Black History Month
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