Slugs Set Sail

The sailing team raises $9,000 for two new racing boats, looking for a coach

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Courtesy of James Melvin.
Courtesy of James Melvin.

The UC Santa Cruz sailing team hopes their two new Flying Junior boats, at 200 pounds and  nearly $9,000 each, will cruise them to victory.

The team raised  around $9,000 last spring for one new boat, and UCSC’s Office of Physical Education, Recreation and Sports (OPERS) matched their contribution and provided them with another boat. They now have two new boats to enter into two different divisions of competition. With the addition of these boats and a highly-skilled class of incoming freshman sailors, captain James Melvin said he is more excited than ever for the future of sailing at UCSC.

“With these new boats and these new freshman, we’re trying to re-build from the ground up,” Melvin said. “This season is a great opportunity for some of these younger players to make a name for themselves at the varsity level.”

Courtesy of James Melvin.
Courtesy of James Melvin.

Melvin said new boats are usually lighter, have smoother pulley systems and glide more easily through the water. Over time, boats become worn and damaged, which slows them down and sometimes makes competition difficult, Melvin said. It is one of the few sports in which equipment can make a drastic difference.

“We’re noticeably faster in these new boats,” Melvin said. “We can feel the change when we’re in the water. Everything’s smoother. It’s very good news for the future of sailing at UCSC.”

The team raised funds by crowdsourcing around various yacht clubs and other local supporters of competitive racing. They also hosted “Learn to Sail” days in the Monterey Bay — the next one is on Jan. 14. Now that the team has two new boats, Melvin said they hope to raise enough money to hire a coach.

“But considering the athletic department’s financial situation, [getting a coach] will not be an easy goal to achieve in the near future,” Melvin said. “We’re going to keep fundraising and looking around. For now we have to do the best with what we have.”

In the wake of a $600,000 projected deficit, OPERS recently terminated both the athletics director and the head of maintenance positions. NCAA athletics will also face a spring funding referendum to determine if the program will be supported by student fees. If the referendum does not pass, NCAA sports will lose all funding. Like many other sports teams on campus, the sailing team is feeling the drawbacks of the financial crisis.

Sophomore team member Julian Weiswasser said sailing is unique in that equipment can provide one team with a significant advantage over the other, and the school’s inability to hire a coach since the 1980s puts the sailing team at a significant disadvantage compared to their competitors.

Courtesy of James Melvin.
Courtesy of James Melvin.

“Other schools just ask their coach to get them the new sails, and he talks to the athletics department or whoever, and it’s no problem,” Weiswasser said. “At UCSC, we have to either fundraise for that money ourselves or compete at a disadvantage.”

The team is allotted $2,000 annually from OPERS, and the team charges $100 per person for their first quarter of participation and $45 for the subsequent quarters. Usually they have about 15 consistent members on the team.

The competitions, known as regattas, consist of a series of boat races. Regattas cost $40 to $60 to enter, about $20 per boat and UCSC competes roughly every other weekend.

Melvin said some of the funding goes toward boat maintenance — like replacing cables holding the mast in place and keeping their boats at the dock. The majority of the money goes toward gas to get them to the further competitions in San Diego, Oregon or Canada.

“The regattas are an absolute blast,” team member Julian Weiswasser said. “We get to go down to San Diego, out to Oregon, as far north as Canada […] It can be hard to balance with school sometimes, but it’s totally worth it.”

UCSC competes in regattas in the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference for their year-long season, along with teams like UC Berkeley and University of Southern California, with Stanford and UC Santa Barbara among the best competitors in the division. Previously, UCSC finished in the bottom two-thirds, though Melvin said they are looking to improve.

“It’s essential that we fundraise and keep UCSC sailing going strong,” Melvin said. “We just want to keep going. We want to get to as many regattas as possible and do as much sailing as possible.”

Information on upcoming Learn to Sail days can be found on the UCSC Sailing Facebook page.