Dec. 1, 2008
Stanford, Calif - While no longer a member of the Stanford sailing team, San Francisco resident Graham Brandt-Zawadzki ('08) can often be found competing around San Francisco Bay, however nowadays climbing aboard bigger boats than the FJs he was used to sailing college. GoStanford had a chance to chat with him about Morning Light, the documentary of a group of young adults to train for and compete in the 2007 Transpacific Yacht Race.
What do you think of Morning Light now that your experience is finished?
I think the movie was a lot better than most of the [Morning Light] crew expected - the entire film crew did an outstanding job with what little usable footage I think we gave them. Most of us would have liked to have seen a bit more boat handling and completed maneuvers rather than some of the more exciting fast cuts, but I suppose that would make for a pretty boring movie for most people.
Does the movie do a good job of portraying the real story?
Actually yeah it does. A lot of people have asked me `So, what really happened? Tell us about the drama,' but there really wasn't any drama. Our team had such a diverse group of personalities that we were surprisingly well balanced. If things ever got tense, there were always five other people around to laugh it off. It was almost weird how well we got along together, and still do.
Does the movie do a good job of portraying you?
The film only had 90 minutes to try and portray 15 unique personalities, which is an impossible task, but that being said, that wasn't the point. The point was to show the team as a whole, and I think our respect and affection for each other comes through. My one complaint is that most of my dialogue with the crew has a lot of inside jokes, so while they're funny to us, most people who see the movie must come out thinking I'm a pretty weird dude. On the other hand, that's probably not too far off...
What did your experience with Morning Light teach you about sailing?
It would probably take me a solid 30 pages to put it all down. So, a lot.
How did your experience with dinghy sailing in college prepare you for sailing a TP52?
On a big boat it's easy for a crew to get segregated between foredeck, afterguard, etc. and to get so fixated on the part of the boat you're immediately responsible for that you forget the bigger picture. I think the dinghy sailing most of us did before the project made it easier for the whole crew to maintain that bigger picture the entire time we sailed together. Whether that meant following changing conditions and opponents and predicting the moves we were going to make before the skipper called for them, or foregoing your job to help make sure a more pressing one was done right.
What is your favorite moment in the whole time that you were a part of the Morning Light team?
I think the buoy racing we did off Newport Harbor for the Hoag Big Boat Series was one of the highlights of the experience. I was excited enough to bring all those guys to my hometown, but it was also our first taste of real competition, and every race we flew around the course flawlessly. We almost even beat Peligroso (Kernan 70) boat-for-boat, despite the almost 20 extra feet of waterline they had on us.
How would you describe your experience with the Stanford sailing team while you were in college?
Joining the [Stanford] team was easily one of the best things I've ever done. Besides the fact that it led me to Morning Light, the team quite literally shaped my life over the past five years. Sailing at Stanford introduced me to a group of incredible, life-long friends (both at Stanford and in the greater sailing community); it led me to the unforgettable experiences I had studying abroad; and it really gave me an identity and a community at an institution already overflowing with amazing people.
What advice would you give to an aspiring junior sailor who wants to sail in college?
Having never been a junior sailor I don't know if I'm the best person to ask. But, if anything brought me to the opportunities I've come across, it was keeping my mind open to new possibilities and having the right attitude. Most of the time it turns out that the only thing holding you back is your own doubt, so just know you can get there, and never stop working for it.
What are your future plans for sailing?
I love sailing in San Francisco Bay and I plan to do that as much as possible. In the near future, I'm also trying to keep up with offshore racing and hope to compete in some upcoming Mexico races and Transpac '09. And Some friends and I are trying to get a J80 out for Key West race week, but it's a long shot. In the long term, I just hope to stay involved with the sport as much as I can for the rest of my life.
My most prized possession is:
My sense of humor
Do you have any superstitions/pre-game rituals?
I always soak my hands in whatever water I'm racing in. I think I stole that from Gladiator, but it still makes me feel better.
My favorite place that I ever visited is:
Byron Bay, Australia
In my off-time, I'm most likely to be found:
The biggest thrill of my life to date
Bungee Jumping in Nepal off the second highest bridge in the world
I'm most thankful for:
Best book I have ever read:
Skinny Legs and All, by Tom Robbins
Least Favorite Food:
My favorite movie:
Donnie Darko (2001)
My favorite TV show:
My parents were right when they told me:
"Never give up. Never surrender."
If I could invite three people to dinner in history they would be:
Yeshua of Nazareth (My Professor would kill me if I just called him Jesus), The Prophet Mohammed, and Chuang Tzu. I've got some questions for those guys...
Ten years from now I hope to be:
Practicing medicine abroad
Favorite midnight snack:
Peanut Butter and Bananas
If I had to cook all of my meals, I'd probably survive on:
Scrambled Eggs and Toast
Favorite Vacation Spot:
I'm afraid of: