Getting to Know ODU Sailing Captain Dillon Paiva

March 30, 2012
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

March 30, 2012

by Ben Waring, Assitant Director of Athletic Communications 

Getting to Know ODU Sailing Captain Dillon Paiva

Always a student both on and off the water, it should be no surprise to anyone who knows Dillon Paiva that the Old Dominion University junior is constantly striving to improve.

All the hard work, dedication and sacrifice is starting to pay dividends for Paiva who was selected earlier this month to the 2012 U.S. Sailing Development Team.  This select group of 52 sailors from across the country is a youth pipeline that feeds to and is supported by the U.S. Olympic Sailing Committee.

In order to stay on the team, the sailors must attend two World Cup events (mostly in Europe and one opportunity in Australia) along with the North American event held in Miami, Fla. In addition, a minimum of 60 hours training in your desired boat must be logged and attendance at one of two training camps in Colorado Springs at the USOC Training Center is required while showing commitment to Olympic sailing.

Paiva, who is very gracious for the opportunity placed in front of him, took part in one of the two training camps provided for the U.S. Sailing Team in Colorado Springs early in March and says it was truly a unique experience. “It showed me what my body could take both mentally and physically,” said the ODU skipper and team captain. “Mentally, it is just so tough to get through it all and it was one of the toughest things I have ever been through in my life.”

There were 34 sailors present combined from the U.S. Development Sailing team, the U.S. Youth World team and the U.S. Olympic Sailing team at the camp with Paiva. The event, which stretched four days, ranged from time in the classroom, choosing the right boat for each sailor to time spent with a nutritionist on the importance of eating right. The toughest part came when the sailors trained with U.S. Navy SEALS and went through a very brief part of what they go through during training. “It was a lot of running, push-ups, log carries, jumping in and out of cold water and covering ourselves in dirt,” said Paiva. “I was proud I made it through because only 18 of us were able to complete the whole thing. People passed out, blacked out, got too physically exhausted or their body temperature got too dangerous were the reasons for the attrition rate being where it was.”

Before getting too wrapped up and enthralled in Olympic possibilities, Paiva doesn’t take for granted what he has in front of him now at Old Dominion and the process it took to get to where he is. While not growing up as a sailor, Paiva and his family moved to a new house in Raleigh, N.C. when he was in middle school. His neighbor had a house at the beach and invited Dillon and his family to go out sailing where he fell in love with the sport from there.

“I took some sailing lessons over the next few summers in middle school and then joined my high school team when I was a freshman,” said Paiva, who was mentored in high school by former ODU sailor Mike Mergenthaler, a member of his local yacht club. “I loved the tradition and history at Old Dominion and that’s why I chose to come here. You can look at this upcoming Olympics in London or the one back in 2008 in Beijing and see how many ODU alumni there are sailing for our country and that was a huge part of my decision to come to Norfolk.”

Paiva was able to meet several of the ODU alum’s recently in Colorado Springs. “A lot of the sailors are getting ready for this summer and were in pretty intense stages getting ready for the Olympics but several sailors said they were glad to see an ODU sailor represented on the development team which was pretty cool.”

The entire ODU sailing team was able to practice back in the fall with reigning Rolex World Sailor of the Year award winner and former All-American Anna Tunnicliffe. “It was incredible to see here ability on the water and it was great to have her impart some of her wisdom on the team. She gave us some tips and tricks for on the water that I still use today.”

For now, Paiva is content to be the best he can be at ODU and get his degree while training for the next level. “It takes a lot of money to get equipment, boats, etc. What is most important for me right now is to get the most of sailing at ODU, learning and getting my degree and then hopefully the next step in life is in Olympic training.”

Paiva’s goal before he leaves Norfolk is to be an All-American and qualify for the team race nationals and coed fleet race nationals. His ultimate goal is to win a national championship in team racing or fleet racing and to be named the College Sailor of the Year, an award won on four previous occasions by previous ODU sailors (Terry Hutchinson in 1988-98 and 1989-90, Corrie Clement in 2002-03 and Anna Tunnicliffe in 2004-05).

This year’s quad, which came in at No. 12 nationally in the most recent rankings by Sailing World, is doing “extremely well” according to Paiva. “Looking at where we were at this point in the season last year, we are so much further ahead. We had the loss of two prominent seniors from a year ago, but we’re in the process of getting better now. This year we have a top tier group, but have two or three groups right behind pushing them. It is necessary for a team to be good and to be deep to get to a higher level.”

Before being named to the U.S. Development Team, Paiva committed to working the summer at the Bellport Bay Yacht Club on Long Island in New York after this season is over. “I did it last year and had the best summer of my life. I’m looking forward to going back and coaching another race team but it does limit my opportunities to sail unfortunately.” Paiva plans to bring his boat up with him and get in as much sailing as possible while working. His focus meanwhile is on getting as physically fit as possible over the summer to prepare for the challenges ahead both collegiately and internationally.