Hanne Weaver was about 6 years old the first time she experienced sailing. Her grandpa, Jorgen Madsen, took her out in Gig Harbor, along with her mom and brother.
Even at such a young age, Weaver knew the feeling she got being on the water was special.
“I just felt connected to the boat, even at that age,” Weaver said. “I had that feeling knowing I was going to be sailor at a young age.”
That experienced launched a love affair with sailing for the 23-year-old Weaver, a Gig Harbor resident and 2013 Gig Harbor High grad, who is currently training and competing for a spot in sailing in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
After the experience with her grandpa, Weaver participating in a “Learn to Sail” program on Wollochet Bay when she was 8. Two years later, Weaver joined the Seattle Yacht Club’s competitive team.
“With my grandpa, I just kind of sat there,” Weaver said. “I wanted to learn more about it as I got older.”
Her parents would drive up for competition and training every weekend in Seattle. Now, she’s gearing up for her biggest challenging yet: The Olympics. Weaver, who is one of the top-ranked sailors in the United States, competes in a one-person boat called a Laser Radial.
While there are team sailing options available, Weaver gravitated toward solo sailing early in her competitive career.
“I like to be in control of everything,” she said. “I don’t like having to tell somebody what to do, or vice versa. I like to be in control and make my own decisions. If I have a bad race, it’s on me. If I have a good race, it’s because of me. I like to feel more connected to the boat.”
Weaver said she sails by feeling, during her hour-and-a half races, or when she’s training, three to four days per week in Gig Harbor.
“I’m connected to the boat,” she said. “I can feel how the rudder feels, I can feel how the sail feels,” she said. “I can feel when the boat is going over waves, or when it’s smooth.”
Weaver said she often encounters people with misconceptions about competitive sailing.
“Most people don’t know how physically fit you have to be to sail well,” she said. “Looking at sailing on TV or something, it looks easy. You see people just sitting there. When you actually get in the boat, it’s very physical. You have to pay attention to wind, waves. The wind is not consistent. There’s shifts and lulls. You have to be proactive with your adjustments. You have to pull your shoulders back. There’s a whole lot of technical stuff about sailing. They think it’s just going around marks.”
Weaver recently won the U.S. women’s singlehanded championship for the second year in a row in La Porte, Texas, in early July. She is singularly focused on qualifying for the Olympics.
“Sailing in the Olympics is my dream and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there,” Weaver said.
Weaver said she’s never been to Tokyo, but plans to travel there soon to get a feel for the city, and visualize herself representing the red, white and blue, and maybe dream a bit of winning a gold medal for the U.S.
“I’d be honored to bring home a gold medal,” she said. “I’d just be very proud to show that I’m the top athlete.”