Sailing through the study

Business student and champion sailor Erica Dawson and her crew Ellie Copeland out on the water.

"I am a big believer in balance, so it’s really cool to be able to study and pursue sailing, because obviously sport won’t last forever.” Wise words from business student and champion sailor Erica Dawson.

The 22-year-old has her sights set on Tokyo, but her Olympic dreams are also inspiring her career. Last year Ms Dawson won the Massey University Go Innovate competition, for HeadCoach – a waterproof headset for coaching sailors. The idea could revolutionise the coaching of water-based sports, allowing coaches to speak directly to their sailor while they are out on the water.

Development work is now underway on the technology side. “Masters student Manu Lange from the Engineering Department has taken the project on, along with lecturer Dr Frazer Noble. We have had help from the Massey Business Development Group. They helped fund the initial work to check the technology would work,” Ms Dawson says. The Business Development Group is further supporting the project with support around commercialisation.

Ms Dawson after winning Massey University’s 2015 Go Innovate competition.

It's a balancing business

The former Albany Senior High School student, who is now in her final year of study, has always had a keen interest in business. “All throughout school, I took business-focused topics like accounting and economics. I always really liked hearing about things in the news to do with business, and couldn’t really see myself doing anything else.”

Ms Dawson says it has not always been easy fitting in studying around her sailing, but feels she has had amazing support. “Massey University has been a great fit for me. When I first came to study at Massey, I got into the Academy of Sport programme. They have helped me get to the point where I am in the carded athlete system with Yachting NZ and High Performance Sport.

“In the last year and a half, since I have been training at the Millennium Institute, I have been surrounded by other high-performance athletes.  Being able to train alongside Olympians is especially motivating,” Ms Dawson says.

“My uncle Rod Dawson is a professional sailor, so he has always been an inspiration to me. Also, the New Zealand sailing team and their success, inspires me to follow in their footsteps.”

Massey University mascot Fergus out on the water to promote the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships,

Massey supports the Youth Sailing World Champs

She hopes to qualify for Tokyo, much like the four hundred sailors taking part in the 2016 Youth Sailing World Championships. The event, which is being supported by Massey University, is being held on Auckland’s North Shore this week. Ms Dawson sailed in the 420 class in Turkey in 2010 and Dublin in 2012, and knows all too well the pressures of competing on the world stage, at such a young age.

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