April 3, 2007
__A behind-the-scenes look at the College’s sailing club__
Throw out your preconceived notions about sailors — whether you close your eyes and see a drunken Jimmy Buffet floating aimlessly between an endless string of beach saloons or an inept Gilligan figure, scratching his head and tinkering ineffectively with his rig — because the Tribe sailing team certainly does not fit the stereotype.
p. While they still find time to enjoy themselves, the team has grown into a dedicated and tightly knit group — one beginning to challenge the old guard of collegiate sailing. Competing in the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (MAISA), one of the most hotly contested leagues in the country, the team is constantly coming into contact with such national powers as the Naval Academy, Georgetown University and Hampton University. Depending on weather and season, the team practices four times a week — each member attending two of those practices — for about four or five hours.
p. An important factor to keep in mind when reading through the team’s results is its status as a club. Many of the teams against which the College’s club races are fully funded varsity programs — a huge advantage when squaring off against our team, which does not have the comfort of scholarships, private docks or the deep pockets of a large athletic department.
p. That’s not to say that the team doesn’t receive an ample amount of funding for their program.
p. “The Rec Sports Department has been extremely generous with our team,” junior Alex “Meatwad” Thomson said. “They’ve helped us buy boats, maintain and build docks and basically just help cover all-around costs. Membership fees only end up costing about $75 per person for the entire year – less than almost any other sports club or Greek organization.”.
p. Founded in 2003 by a group of students who wished to take their passion to a competitive, collegiate level, the club rose from humble beginnings. Within a year, however, the club had begun to blossom, and every year since has seen the club continue to grow into its current state of 45 nominal members and about 25 more active ones.
p. “2004 especially saw the team grow by leaps and bounds,” Thomson said. “It was the first full year and we had a large freshman class join. Since then the team has continually grown in size, commitment, and skill level.”
p. A note of particular interest regarding the makeup of the team is that in sailing, men and women can compete on the same boat and in the same races. This holds true even at the Olympic level, where many of the events are contested between mixed-gender teams. For trivia’s sake, the team consists of about 60% female and 40% male – a figure of relative unimportance considering the rules of the sport.
p. The team has grown to encompass more than just a desire to compete on the water – the bonds formed between the team’s members have led to a campus-wide reputation as a gregarious and fun-loving group. The sailing team’s social life focuses around an off-campus house wherein many of the sailors live, and the rest often congregate for various social functions. At least once a week the team comes together for some sort of activity, be it horseshoes, croquet, or an outdoor barbecue.
p. In addition to a fondness for all things sailing and fun, the team also makes a conscious effort to be active in the community at large. Every year the team holds a kids’ sailing day for the children of the First Colony neighborhood – the area in which the Tribe’s docks are located. Also coming up April 21, the team will be holding ‘Boats ‘n Burgers,’ a fundraiser where for $10 members of the student body can head out on the water and enjoy some barbecue with the team. Not to neglect the fact that every Friday for most of the semester the team offers recreational sailing, where students are welcome to come out and try their hand at sailing free of charge.
p. “Part of the team’s philosophy is that everyone is welcome, regardless of skill level or economic status,” Thomson said, describing the openness and easy-going attitude that characterizes most sailing teams throughout the country. “Sailors in general have strong camaraderie, we can travel to any regatta and stay for free at the host team’s sailing house and strike up conversations with sailors across the country in between races. It’s a great experience, and I’m extremely happy to be a part of it.”