Sam Mackay became more interested in sail woollies than lamb's wool and it's a choice that's seen him join the team at Yachting New Zealand.
The 25-year-old grew up on a sheep and beef farm near Napier but Sam and his younger sister Liv, who is Olympic campaigning in a Nacra 17, were drawn to sailing by a family friend.
Mackay recently started working at Yachting New Zealand as the new youth coordinator, taking over from Stu Thomas. He will be in charge of running the youth programme as well as organising the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta, this country's premier Olympic and youth classes event.
"I saw the job come up and spoke with a few people," he said. "It was just a good opportunity to transition into something new in the youth space and build different skills. Yachting New Zealand's culture is definitely something I was keen to learn more about and be a part of.
"For the first six months it will be about finding my feet more than anything. In terms of the youth side, there seems to be a fantastic foundation with the programme and historically it’s been really successful. I don’t really want to change too much. I want to build on what’s been done and try to facilitate an environment in which the athletes can buy in and be successful."
Mackay enjoyed some good success as a young sailor. He was a member of the New Zealand team at two Optimist world championships (2007 and 2008), was second at the Tanner and Tauranga Cups, third at the Starling national championships and third at the 420 nationals. He also won the 2014 youth match racing national championships during his time at Victoria University.
A coaching career beckoned after completing his accounting and commercial law degree and he spent nine months of the year in Melbourne as the Optimist state coach for Victoria and the other three months in the United States.
Mackay increased the number of Victorian sailors in Australian teams from one in his first year to 12 this year, was a coach for the Australian Optimist team and also coached the Victorian state side to the national teams racing title.
Mackay is excited to be back in New Zealand and has already made progress in the planning for next year's Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta.
He's also looking forward to getting out on his WASZP more often this summer, especially with the International WASZP Games to be held at the Wakatere Boating Club in 2021.
"Now that I’m not coaching as much, I would love to put more training hours in and have a crack at a few regattas. I’m a very competitive person and don’t really enjoy just drifting around. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it properly."
- Main pic: Sam Mackay was 18th at this year's International WASZP Games in Perth. Photo: Drew Malcolm.