Whether you have earned your sea legs already or have never stepped foot on a boat, UConn sailing may be for you. One of the lesser-known club sports teams on campus, the UConn sailing team welcomes students of all-levels of experience to join them in their preparations for the spring season.
Originally established in the late 70s before being re-established in the 90s, the UConn sailing team has been a fully-functioning club sports team since their second reformation in 2006. Though the team’s main focus is on racing and competing, those looking to just have a good time and learn the basics of sailing are more than welcome on the team.
“I’d like everybody looking to learn to sail, or thinking about joining the team, to know that no experience is needed to join our team,” former president and current team member Sam Grey said. “We take a wide range of sailors in terms of experience, from those that have never stepped in a boat to those that have competed on a national level.”
Led by head coach Gary Hendrickson, UConn sailing competes in the NEISA (New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association) conference with 57 total members. Ranging from club programs to full-fledged varsity sailing teams, the NEISA includes Yale, Harvard, Tufts and Boston University among others, in what is considered the most competitive conference in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA). While the competition may seem fierce, Grey could only describe his time with the team as “rewarding.”
“My experience with the sailing team has been rewarding,” Grey said. “I’ve personally been able to see our young team grow as a member, and later on as president. Prior to being president, I saw our team rise in our division rankings, which was no easy feat considering that our team competes in the most competitive division within the ICSA.”
The team currently operates on eight 14-foot long sailboats, more commonly known as 420s. With two sailors to a boat, the team can have up to 16 people on the water, but is looking to add to their fleet in hopes of getting more people on the water at a single time. With funding from USG and Club Sports, the sailing team would like to add another fleet of boats, as well as six more wetsuits to protect sailors from the cold temperatures the spring semester is known for.
As a way of welcoming beginners to the sailing world, captain Heather Lewis and her team will implement an “A team” and a “B team,” a direct result of adding boats to their fleet. The A team will consist of the more veteran and competitive members, and the B team will be friendlier to newcomers who are either just learning to sail or would rather sail in a more casual manner. The team currently operates as one big fleet of roughly 35 sailors.
In preparation for their eight regattas this spring, the team practices three times a week at Patriots’ Park on Lake Wangumbaug in Coventry. The team began sailing on Lake Wangumbaug just last spring, a 15-minute drive from campus.
Weekly practices and weekend regattas all lead up to a big weekend in April. The weekend of April 6, the top sailors will head to the New England Dinghy Tournament, a regatta open to all NEISA teams, where the team will compete for a spot in the ICSA National Championships.
“Being the underdog compared to top schools like Yale or the US Coast Guard Academy, we’re shooting to earn a spot to compete in the New England Championships,” current president Maxwell Miller said via email.
During that same weekend, the team will be hosting its home regatta at the UConn Avery Point Campus. In a collaborative effort between the UConn Avery Point Waterfront Programs department and alumni from the Sailing Team, the sailing team will organize and run a NEISA-ranked regatta in which seven NEISA teams will compete.
If you feel overwhelmed or worried about joining the team, Grey urges you to still come out and give it a try.
“Learn to sail! We are always looking for new members, and have a new and awesome E-Board who will continue the sailing team’s awesome growth since 2007,” Grey said.
Feel free to contact the team with any questions you may have at email@example.com.
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.