The Wellesley College sailing team is looking forward to resuming its activities and starting its spring season. The team has taken off over the past few years and the number of members on the team has grown. Wellesley competes against other New England-area sailing teams including Harvard, Yale and MIT in the Northeastern International Sailing Association, many of which are composed of students who have been recruited for varsity sailing. In contrast, sailing is a club sport at Wellesley and no experience in sailing is needed to join the team, which means that Wellesley often lacks the experience of other teams. Nevertheless, Wellesley does not shy away from the challenge.
The Wellesley College sailing team currently holds all of its practices the MIT Sailing Pavilion. During the season, practices are held three times a week in conjunction with Brandeis’ sailing team. The two teams are relatively small and share the same coach, Tom Robinson. There are also Olin students on the Wellesley team through the Babson-Olin-Wellesley collaboration. Practices run from September until mid-November and will resume this spring as soon as the river thaws.
“Practicing with the Brandeis team is mutually beneficial, because the more boats you have practicing at once, the more it simulates an actual regatta,” co-captain Anna Kennedy ’17 said.
Coach Robinson teaches the Wellesley team the necessary skills of sailing for new members. One of the first skills taught to new sailers is how to properly rig and set up the boats to avoid capsizing. In a typical practice, the team then proceeds onto the water and does a variety of drills including moving upwind and downwind. To go upwind is to go directly into the wind, which requires the boat to move in a zigzag motion called tacking. To go downwind requires the sail to be set perpendicular to the wind. Sailing also requires strong teamwork between two people. The skipper is the person who manages the mainsail and runner. The crew is the person who manages the jib, the smaller sail on the boat. The crew and skipper must work together to sail the boat successfully.
“The most memorable moments for the team as a whole are not necessarily on the water — they are usually hanging out on the dock during regattas when there is a lot of time to bond as a team. Sailing is one of my favorite things to do at Wellesley. Our team is fun and going to sail for the afternoon takes my mind off other matters,” Kennedy said.
There are many team-bonding events, including game nights and a weekly team dinner.
“My favorite dimension of the team is that it is dynamic. Each year, the team members’ passions for sailing and its community on campus takes a different flavor, and that decides what the tone of the team will be like for that year,” Vicky Zeamer ’15 said. “When I joined the team my first year, team members only saw each other on the water, but now in my senior year, the team is a lot more social and we are friends outside of the team. It warms my heart to see the team getting stronger each year.”
Members of the team have had all types of experiences on the water. When asked about her most memorable moment in sailing, Sam Chin ’17, the sailing team’s treasurer, mentioned capsizing.
“I was sailing in a Tech, which is an MIT boat meant for one person, and the wind was pretty strong that day. To make sure the boat didn’t tip over, I had to lean on one side with the sail on the other. I leaned out as much as I could — I was basically out of the boat, but I still didn’t have enough mass to keep the boat afloat. So then the boat tipped over, and I got on the center board, which sticks out from the bottom of the boat, and leaned on it, but I just couldn’t tip the boat over. I was just floating there in the water, because I also couldn’t hold on to the boat too strongly because it would sink under my weight,” Chin said.
The sailing team is currently transitioning and adjusting to changes made last semester, which include the introduction of Coach Robinson and the increasing cost of MIT’s boat housing fees. Kennedy mentioned the proposal to hold sailing practices here on campus at Lake Waban instead of going to MIT. This would address the logistical difficulties of traffic and commuting time.
“We are hoping that if we switched to sailing on campus, we could save more money in the long run and grow the numbers of the team. It would make sailing more convenient and visible on campus,” said Kennedy.
The sailing team is registered for three upcoming regattas, two at MIT and one at Boston University. Wellesley is also excited to host a mid-week regatta in April, which will be the most accessible sailing event for the community.
“Everybody is looking forward for the weather to get warm. It’ll be nice once it’s warmer as we will be able to go out and practice. I want to spend as much time outside as possible!” Chin said.
The sailing team will have an open meeting and a team dinner later this month.
Photo Courtesy of the Sailing Team