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Eric Holden recently completed a 94-hour race from Hong Kong to Manila - photo by Martin Dee
Eric Holden recently completed a 94-hour race from Hong Kong to Manila - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 5 | May 4, 2006

Forecast Rosy for Sailing Champ, Meteorologist

By Brian Lin

When Eric Holden’s friends from Vancouver’s False Creek Elementary School came to visit, they weren’t welcomed into a house with a white picket fence. That’s because Holden, who graduates from UBC this spring with a Bachelor of Science degree in atmospheric science, lived on a 50-foot yacht until the age of 12.

“My parents took me sailing when I was 10 days old,” says Holden, who competed in his first race at age nine. “For me, it was just another sport. Some kids play soccer, I got into sailing.”

The early start cemented Holden’s interest — and inevitable success — in the grueling sport of yacht racing.

At 18, he became the Canadian Youth Champion in 1998, only to become the World Champion a year later during his first year at UBC. 

Since then, Holden has competed in multiple World Championships and finished second at the Canadian Olympic trials for the 2004 Athens games, all while keeping a near-perfect attendance record at UBC.

“I couldn’t bear the thought of missing a class where they may be discussing something I could apply to sailing,” says Holden. “I’ll miss not having my professors around to consult with.”

Admitting that he initially took up meteorology to get an edge in sailing, Holden says it has developed into a life-long passion and career. The 26-year-old entrepreneur recently started his own business specializing in yacht racing-related weather forecasts.

“Weather is such a big part of sailing, but most athletes get into a race with just general rules of thumb that are often inaccurate,” says Holden. “To me that wasn’t enough.”

His unique combination of skills in sailing and meteorology has led to a job advising Derek Hatfield, who finished a single-handed race around the world in 2003. Hatfield’s 60-foot Spirit of Canada embarks on the 2006/07 Five Oceans around the World race this October.

“I started meteorology because of sailing, now I continue sailing because of what I could learn about meteorology,” says Holden. “What I love is that it’s both a science and an art. We can learn so much but it’s still up to Mother Nature. It’s variable and it’s fast-changing.”

With single-handed, around-the-world racing and future Olympics still ahead of him, Holden says while he’s excited about a career as a meteorologist, he will likely never stop racing.

“Some people compare it to running a marathon and playing a game of chess at the same time,” says Holden. “To me, the appeal lies in the nature of being on a vessel that you can steer without using any power except for the force of the wind.

“It’s a beautiful thing to be so self-sufficient while all you can see for miles in any direction is water. People who’ve experienced it are usually sailors for life.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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