Tajima-Direct.com, the world’s leading polarized lens maker, speaks to 2x Olympian and world champion tactician Dave Hughes about reading breeze and what really matters.
Growing up in Maine, then moving to Miami to chase his racing dreams, two-time Olympian and multiple class world champion Dave Hughes, learned the importance of properly identifying details of wind direction and velocity on capricious Biscayne Bay. A place where pressure and angle are not necessarily consistent from one edge of a puff to the other. Reading wind via texture and subtle color tones on the water’s surface is more an art form than a science. But what if science, via superior lens technology, could aid in reading subtle and hard to see detail? Hughes sits down with Tajima-Direct.com co-founder and polarized lens developer Steve Rosenberg to discuss why he’s been a Tajima Direct Lens loyalist and what he looks for and prefers in his polarized lens technology.
Tajima Direct: Tell us a little bit about where you grew up and when you realized you had the “sailing bug.”
Dave Hughes: I really cut my teeth off the coast of Maine. As a kid I sailed any boat I could get my hands on … Blue Jays, 14s, Lasers, J24s, 420s, Etchells, Interclubs … you name it. I was equally excited by both dinghies and keelboats – buoy racing and offshore. I credit a huge amount of my approach to sailing from having balanced those disciplines at a young age.
TD: Has sunglass use always been part of your sailing and daily eye protection? How important is superior polarized lens technology to you and why?
DH: I’m religious about protecting my eyes. With the number of days I spend on the water year after year, I can’t afford not to be. A crisp and clear lens that can carry me through a range of conditions is the gold standard.
TD: Along with your Olympic 470 partner Stu McNay, you’ve represented America in the last two Games, coached at the 2012 Olympics and enjoyed a host of success on the world platform winning the 470 Europeans and World Cups, along with World Championships won in the Etchells and Melges 24. You’ve traveled the globe and raced on almost every type of water on this big blue planet. Do you find yourself using different lens tints or technologies based on water, color or light conditions? What are your preferences and why?
DH: I travel with two types of Tajima lenses – the True View Gray 15 Blue Mirror and the Brown 15 Green Mirror. The Blue Mirrors are my go-to option. They are my no questions asked, no idea what the weather will bring, all-purpose lenses. I pack those in my bag and am confident I’ll be covered. The Brown 15 Green Mirror work really well for me in foggy and low light conditions where I’m looking for heightened contrast and detail in flat light. I find I’ve been rotating in those lenses more and more lately.
TD: You’ve really made a name for yourself as one of the top American crews and tactical minds in our country – evidenced by your recent nomination for US Rolex Sailor of the Year. What are you looking for on the water to help you determine pressure, angle, duration or patterns?
DH: Reading the water during racing is something that must be done quickly and with accuracy. Often there isn’t the luxury of time, so the ability to take a confident visual snapshot is key. Where’s the next puff? What’s its shape? Where are the edges and meat of the puff? How far should I dig in? Is the wind feature moving slower or faster than expected? Is the water showing me some subtle opportunity in the current? Where do the puffs and currents connect and how does that road map correspond to what our team is trying to accomplish? Data in, analysis, and decision output – it’s a simple, yet challenging cycle that requires clear, sharp vision. Tajima lenses are crisp, removes harsh glare which allows for greater color saturation and separation that makes it easier for me to use the water’s texture and tones to best decipher the details. One of the reasons the True View Gray 15 Blue Mirror is my all-purpose go-to lens is that it’s a neutral lens tint rendering colors as they are naturally. The Blue Mirror seems to further reflect light and offer richer color saturation in a variety of sun conditions and bodies of water. The better the visual data, the better the output.
TD: You spend a tremendous amount of time on the water training, racing, coaching … all in the harmful elements and irritating glare of the sun, wind, and salt water. We’ve discussed lens quality advantages for reading breeze, what about eye protection? Impact protection, and the harsh elements, which then induces the fatigue factor … does this weigh into your eyewear and lens decisions?
DH: Yes, absolutely. It’s all about sharp optics, and protection. A hi-quality polarized lens can be the difference-maker in picking up on the smallest details on the water quickly. High-level protection means I’ll be less fatigued after a long day on the water. I definitely feel the benefits of good lenses as the regatta wears on. Vision health is key to longevity in this sport and not something I take for granted. No one can afford the risk of eye damage. From the constant pounding of the elements but also impact protection. Protection is something we all should demand from our lenses as the last thing we need is lasting eye damage or a shattered lens damaging an eyeball or loss of sight. It’s pretty simple, right! As for water shedding, anti-reflective treatments and such … I’m not a scientist, but whatever Tajima coats their lenses with … it works!
TD: You’re currently preparing for the Etchells World Championship with Steve Benjamin, while concurrently campaigning J/70 and J/24 programs. You just won the J/70 class at last week’s Annapolis Sailing World Helly Hansen Regatta with Terry Hutchinson. Tell us a bit about your role in these programs.
DH: Benj and Terry are true legends of our sport. The opportunity to learn from them is such an honor. Their intensity helps me bring my best as a competitor. Supporting Terry with wind-shift play has been super rewarding and we’re looking forward to sailing together more. It looks like we qualified for the 2023 J/70 Worlds, to boot! Benj and I go back many years and more races than I can remember. We have great chemistry with boat set-up, tuning, sail trim, and regatta approach. My long-time friend and Olympic partner Stu McNay has recently joined the team. Upwind, Stu and I divide strategy and tactics — a relationship we know well from our years in the 470! Downwind I trim the spinnaker. It’s such a solid team. No stone left unturned!