of life and sailing

answer of the week

of life and sailing

As a recent college sailing graduate…

I normally cruise over the Questions of the Week (see college or bust, – ed) but when I saw it concerned College Sailing, specifically growing collegiate programs, I was very excited to respond until I reached the end of the thread and I couldn’t respond, or start a new topic.
If I could’ve here is what I would’ve said to all y’all:

First of all, it is encouraging to me that so many members of the sailing community are this fired up about the topic of college sailing. Whether they think it falls short, has incredible potential, or is completely worthless, the fact that it impresses them so much to comment upon it is in itself impressive.

I have spent at least three years explaining to a wide array of people why West Coast college sailing, in particular the NW district, is so very different from that of other parts of the country. Back east a Varsity sailing program is barely worth a shrug, on this coast, there are merely a handful and club programs dominate.

Of course, when I’ve visited those East Coast programs and seen their equipment, trophies, coaching, even what they get wear everyday to gym, I grew green with envy. Beyond the privileges and the opportunities, knowing that they could evolve so much more as sailors in four years than we could, I often wondered, “what’s the point?”

Now, just a month shy of the anniversary of my college graduation, I know what the point was. I have been a competitive sailor and I would love to call myself that again. The moment the wind picks up there is nowhere else I’d rather be than in a boat, pushing myself. However, I also now know how to manage a budget, encourage leadership amongst peers, coach, plan trips, and even write a constitution.

The three years I served on-and-off as a leader of my college team were the best and worst years. I learned so much and fought so much but now, I know about both life and sailing.

One specific memory comes to mind whenever I think about “East Coast sailors.” ICSA Semi-Finals were held in Seattle May, 2010. My university provided boats for the event. I headed to Seattle earlier that week to spend time with my Seattle friends, many of which were sailors for UW. At the end of the weekend it was my duty to be sure our boats were loaded and tow them home.

When I arrived at Sail Sand Point, no boats were loaded. I found this odd as the event was clearly over. Quickly I realized it was because many of the sailors there weren’t accustomed to loading boats. In my bossy manner I quickly directed the sailors to start loading the boats and masts.

Things that were so second nature to me, where to put the booms, how to dress a mast, tie-downs, hitches, etc. I had to explain and talk them through. Sure, these guys could sail a boat faster than me any day but they couldn’t transport it very far.

One guy commented, “You do this every weekend?!”

“No,” I responded,  “we do this twice a week, we load after practice and again after the regatta.”

They didn’t know what to think. That was the moment I truly understood how different the opposite ends of the college sailing spectrum were.

College sailing is what it is. I hope though that its future is shaped not only by its alumni but also by its student leaders, who have the vision and ambition to guide the sport as it should be. – Karem