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Plant HS grad competing in Youth Sailing World Championship


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The songs of a sailor will sway like the wind, dipping and diving to set the tone for a successful race.

“Every time, before I go sailing,” said 18-year-old Connor Nelson, “I have to get into some mental state. In a laser, I would say it is half physical and half mental.”

Connor’s dreams have been met with sacrifices. 

“Usually, I train about five days a week out on the water for about three hours a day,” he told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley. “I run to practice. It is about three miles every day so I run there and I run back. I try to get to the gym as much as I can. I do spin and I have been dieting quite a bit to stay at a certain weight. I need to stay at about 155 pounds and I am usually 170 pounds.”

The Plant High School graduate, who will attend college at Brown University, started sailing at the Davis Island Yacht Club ten years ago. He blames his father for his passion for the sport.

“He was a big sailor all through college,” said Connor. “He went to the United States Naval Academy.”

Connor said he decided he wanted to qualify for the Youth Sailing World Championship when he entered high school and, for the past four years, he has been training for it. 

“There are two qualification events,” he said, “and one sailor in the country ends up representing the U.S. at this world championship.”

Connor won both of those events, one in Clearwater, Florida and one in Marina del Ray, California. 

“I think my mom cried. My aunt called me. She was crying. They were all extremely supportive. It was awesome. It was the best feeling,” he said. 

Now, he will battle the elements and the opponents for a world championship in Gdynia, Poland. He will compete in two, one hour-long races every day for five straight days.

He said, “I want to do the best to represent my country and fulfill whatever I can at that regatta.”

Connor hopes to finish on a high note and, while we are speaking of music, he shared his preferred racing playlist. 

“I always listen to the same five songs every time before I go sail. I have a playlist,” Connor said.

“Can you share it?” Gabrielle asked him.

“Some reggae to calm me down and I have some AC/DC to pump me back up again,” he said with a smile, “so I got to have the mix.”

The races begin on Monday, July 15. You can count on 8 On Your Side to keep you updated on his performances.

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