Paul Foerster

Paul Jeffrey Foerster

November 19, 1963 -

Rangely, Colorado

Kevin Burnham, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 470 with Paul Foerster in 2004, once sailed with a Japanese gentleman who was a Samurai. Burnham says the man was so in the zone when steering he had to tap his shoulder when it was time to tack. Burnham says Paul Foerster had the same extraordinary concentration, and determination. “Paul was hiking out, feet in the straps, steering the boat, handling constant adjustments on main, vang, and cunningham while I worried about the chess match and read the wind,” Burnham says. “I’d say Paul, we’re up five degrees, the boats to windward are up 10, could be a persistent right shift, think we should bite the bullet, get over there? Silence. I’d say I’m asking for a second opinion. If you don’t answer this question you’ll be held in contempt of court. And I’d see his ear move because I’d gotten a smile out of him. And he’d say, let’s tack: three, two, one… Paul isn’t a talker. He might not talk to anyone for days.”

Foerster’s record is as extraordinary as his concentration. Three Olympic medals (two silver and a gold) in two different classes; four world championships in three different classes; seven national championships in Flying Dutchman; three-time college All American… It started with Paul’s father buying a funky little Styrofoam boat for the family when they moved to Corpus Christi. Then Paul sailed J/24s that were big in Texas at the time. “I learned racing against good competition, guys like John Kolius,” Foerster says. “I went to U. Texas because that’s where the good Texas sailors were going.” Before he left for college he received acclaim for winning a big J/24 regatta.

Skip Whyte, head coach at University of Rhode Island, coached Foerster to his silver (2000) and gold Olympic medals in the 470. “He’s so talented, so smart,” Whyte says of Foerster, “and quiet. He’s processing all the time. There are openings now and then, but he’s not an easy sell. He liked to play games with me, ask me what he’d been doing differently that day. I passed most of the quizzes. It’s a challenge to know what he’s thinking. We communicated telepathically.”

In 2004, Foerster says he didn’t have boat speed until the last months. “Then I listened to Skip Whyte,” Foerster says, “changed to his ideas, got speed, won some regattas, and the Olympics.”

– Roger Vaughan

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