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Hometown Hopefuls: Stu McNay, Rhode Island

Stu McNay


Throughout the summer, in a series called Hometown Hopefuls, NBC is spotlighting the stories of Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls from all fifty states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, as they work towards the opportunity to represent their country at the Paris 2024 Games next year. We’ll learn about their paths to their sports’ biggest stage, and the towns and communities that have been formative along the way. Visit for more stories from across America as these Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls prepare for Paris in summer 2024.

Stu McNay went into Tokyo figuring it would probably be his last Olympics. At nearly 40 years old, he was at a fourth Games in an event, the two-man dinghy, that would be replaced on the Olympic program for the next Games in 2024.

But then McNay received a phone call last winter from Lara Dallman-Weiss, a Tokyo Olympian in the two-woman dinghy, which was also dropped from the Olympics. A mixed-gender two-person dinghy replaces the men’s and women’s events at the Games in Paris (sailing events will be in Marseille).

Dallman-Weiss was looking for a new partner.

“I was coaching and doing a couple of other sailing projects,” McNay said. “It really surprised me how excited I was to receive her call and to be given the opportunity to start sailing again with an experienced crew like her.”

Now McNay is eyeing a fifth Olympics, which would tie the record for a U.S. sailor. He and Dallman-Weiss will compete at August’s world championships, and then an Olympic Trials in January in Miami.

When looking at McNay’s Olympic results -- 13th place, 14th, fourth and ninth -- it’s no surprise what’s motivating him to continue.

“I haven’t gotten the medal yet,” he said. “That’s a performance result motivator, but part of what’s motivating me is after watching other people race for a year [after Tokyo], it was increasingly making me want to do more of it myself. It’s an amazing feeling to be in a little boat, to be using the elements and racing all the other competitors trying to do the same thing. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s an intense experience. I really missed that.”

McNay placed ninth in Tokyo with partner Dave Hughes, five years after they were fourth in Rio, but distant from the bronze medalists.

While many professional sailors reside in Florida or California, McNay went back home to Rhode Island, where he lives with wife Tanya and their young son and daughter.

McNay grew up outside Boston and sailed during summers on Buzzards Bay near the Rhode Island border. In high school, he was captain of the wrestling team, but he knew he wanted to race at the Olympics.

He then graduated from Yale with an architecture degree in 2005 and still spent much of his time in Massachusetts until moving in 2012 to Rhode Island, where Tanya did her postdoctoral psychology program at Brown University. Tanya got a job at the Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, where they lived until moving to more family-centric Barrington in April.

“As I’ve been more involved in the professional side of sailing, being connected to Newport, Rhode Island, has been huge,” he said. “Newport is by far the biggest sailboat racing spot in the Northeast of the U.S. Being nearby puts me right by that center of sailing.”

Both McNay and his wife have worked at Brown, she as a faculty supervisor and he as an assistant coach for the sailing team, which has produced several Olympians.

McNay joined the coaching staff after the Tokyo Games, when he thought his Olympic racing career was over.

“I wanted to work with younger sailors,” he said. “I wanted to pass along what I knew. I wanted to be a part of a team environment. I thought I could contribute to their program. And I was trying to do something which would generally keep me closer to home. The Olympic sailing over the years has been hard on my family, and it’s also hard on me because I want to feel close to my family.”

While McNay is a proud Rhode Islander, training for the Olympics means he spends plenty of time in warmer waters, away from his wife and children. He made it a point in a recent interview to voice his appreciation for their sacrifices, and for a village-like support system at home.

Though the 2028 Los Angeles Games could be his first home Olympics, this will likely be his last run.

“I wouldn’t want to close any doors, but I suspect after this Olympics, I would find it more interesting and rewarding to be in a coaching or administrative role,” he said.

McNay has already experienced a career highlight in this Olympic cycle. Last summer in Cork, Ireland, he won his first world title in a dinghy boat. He and Caleb Paine, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, prevailed in the 505, which is not an Olympic event.

“It was an affirmation of the sailing that we had done in the past that, like OK, we’ve got this,” McNay said. “Because you always feel like your teeth get kicked in at the Olympics because it’s a very high level. Everyone’s training all the time. It’s very rare that a team is able to consistently win.”

Now, at nearly 42 years old, he is embarking on another career first, teaming up with a woman for an Olympic bid. He and Dallman-Weiss share at least one thing: the winter cold. She is from Minnesota.

“Honestly, it kind of keeps things fresh,” he said of the new partnership. “I’ve done things more or less one way for the last 15, 16 years, and it’s a little bit different sailing with a female, and I mean that in a good way.”

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