Club sailing team competes despite lagging funds

The Minnesota Daily begins with sailing as part of a weekly look at club sports.

Brian Deutsch

Why would a large group of University students be sitting next to Lake Minnetonka this weekend complaining about the near-perfect weather?

The answer is all too simple for the Minnesota club sailing team.

A necessity for sailing is wind, and this weekend there was barely enough to go around as the team hosted the Gopher Invite.

After being delayed for close to three hours Saturday due to the lack of wind and the ice that had formed on the calm water during the night, 17 sailing boats hit the water to compete in a series of races over the next two days.

And according to junior Jessica Haverstock, the results were worth the wait as Minnesota won both the “A” and “B” fleets at the event.

This weekend’s results are tallied by combining the times of two fleets from each school.

The “A” fleet and the “B” fleet each sail a designed course, in this case a line of three buoys called an Olympic course.

The crews line up along the center buoy – or the jibe mark – and head first for the windward mark, which is upwind of the starting point.

Once each boat reaches the windward mark, the crew must turn the boat around the buoy and sail back past where they began toward the downwind leeward mark.

The homestretch of the race comes once the boat sails around the buoy and heads back toward the jibe mark, in the center, to finish the race.

The use of two fleets helps to test a program’s depth, according to Minnesota junior commodore Dave Elsmo.

Elsmo is one of the team’s more experienced sailors; he’s been sailing practically his entire life.

It’s one reason he was named commodore, the equivalent of a captain in other activities.

But experience isn’t something students need in order to sail with the team.

According to Elsmo, some members of the club have relatively little experience or none at all.

One problem Elsmo said the team often faces is that people don’t even know the sailing club exists, which has led the team to use unusual means to attempt to recruit.

“On Friday we took one of our boats out in front of (Coffman) Union,” Elsmo said. “Mostly (our recruiting) is by word of mouth, so what we did Friday was pretty huge for the team.”

For example, freshman Amberose Kramer said she learned about the team when she ran into Elsmo, who she met growing up in Racine, Wis., on the first day of class last fall.

According to Elsmo, the 14 sailors that make up the Minnesota team pale in comparison to larger programs in the Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association, like Wisconsin’s.

As a club sport, the sailing team also must deal with a small budget, which Elsmo said is quite difficult considering sailing is by no means an inexpensive activity.

Elsmo said the last time the club was awarded a University allocation it received $8,000, but most years the team spends close to $32,000 a year on boats, travel, coaching, etc., making it difficult to compete with established programs.

“Varsity sailing is mostly the coastal schools and they have million dollar budgets Ö they don’t even have to actively recruit because they’re just a name,” Elsmo said. “They’re like, ‘How much is your budget?’ and our entire budget is equal to theirs for that regatta.”

One thing Minnesota has that other MCSA programs don’t is a regular coach in Cappy Capper.

“(Cappy)’s great Ö he’s got a lot of experience, and he grew up sailing,” Haverstock said. “He really knows what he’s talking about, and he’s good for advice on and off the water.”