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Erica Dawson: A letter to my younger self

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Dear Erica,

You have just started sailing at Murrays Bay. You have a made great group of friends and you love it already. These people will still be your friends 20 years from now.

You may not believe it now but you will develop into a decent sailor with a desire to do well.

Sailing will soon start to demand more of your time and your other sports like tap dancing and tennis will need to drop off a little. Keep up with the netball though - the team camaraderie will give you plenty of joy and you will play for years to come.

Sailing won't always be easy or enjoyable, in fact, it will be pretty daunting at times.

Like launching when it's windy. But when you get off the water, you will realise it was actually pretty fun.

Some people will try to intimidate you by yelling at you around a mark when you clearly have rights to be in there. Back yourself. You’ll just go beat them where it counts - on the water.


At times you won't have a sailing partner, you'll perform poorly and you won't always reach your goals.

There will be times when you doubt your abilities and your strength.

You will be exhausted and overwhelmed and there will be times you wonder if you'll ever be able to master a boat. 

You will get injured at the worst possible moment and there will be times you think about quitting.

Don't. You will surprise yourself with how hard you can push, with how deep you can dig. Know you have worked hard and believe you have earned the right to be on that start line. Say yes to every opportunity, you never know what it could lead to. This will all just be another part of your unique journey.

Remember to thank your parents.

Thank Mum for all those times she picks you up from school with the boat on the back and afternoon tea ready.

Thank Dad for getting in the water up to his chest to push you out over the Murrays Bay waves. For tirelessly launching all the ribs for each club session. For $2 to buy four roast potatoes from the shop across the road after sailing. And for driving you around the country to race in regattas, sacrificing every weekend.

I know you'll find it hard to believe right at the moment, but imagine one day sailing a boat that is flying above the water on foils.

Imagine racing in the Sail Grand Prix and learning from some of the best sailors in the world.

Imagine representing New Zealand at the pinnacle of the sport - the Olympic Games. 


Photo / Sailing Energy

Imagine getting to sail with whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, turtles, seabirds and flying fish.

Imagine helping with a yacht delivery and anchoring on the edge of an uninhabited atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and witnessing the most incredible wildlife - hermit crabs piling on top of each other, thousands of reef sharks, and literally coming face-to-face with curious seabirds.

Now imagine the beach of that same atoll, three days from anywhere, littered with plastic bottles and lids, straws, fishing nets and jandals. That's the day you will realise the extent of the damage we're causing to the planet and the day you begin to re-think what you consume and how you do things. It's the day your sense of purpose and passion to protect our oceans is born.

How cool would it be to spend half the year living in Europe and experiencing completely different cultures but at the same time deepening your appreciation for New Zealand and your friends and family back home?

Imagine being part of a team that has your back, no matter what.


Stick to your guns, stand up for yourself when you have to and treat others how you would want to be treated.

Work bloody hard – you owe it to yourself to put everything into this.

Keep going, Erica. There are classes to be sailed and adventures to be had beyond even your wildest dreams.