|Life After High School Sailing
Coach Adam interviews recent high school sailing graduates on their foray into college sailing
By Adam Corpuz-Lahne, Head Sailing Coach
Over the past few years, the StFYC High School Team has graduated quite a few sailors who have gone on to sail in college, some of them at schools that are perennial contenders for titles. After thinking back to my experience sailing on the University of Hawaii sailing team (the last West Coast school to win a Women’s or Coed National Championship!), I reached out to a few of our recent grads to ask them about their experiences so far with college sailing.
How much did sailing factor into your school of choice?
Isabelle: I wanted to sail in college, but it was important that I love the school regardless of whether or not it had a good team. Boston College (along with several other schools) ended up on my list because of its team’s ranking, but I applied because I loved the school itself.
Sammy: College sailing and academics were equally weighed in my college decision. I tried to find a school that balanced these well while also having a team that would allow me to sail.
Claire: I looked at a lot of different schools, some that didn’t even have sailing teams. I was definitely a lot more focused on academics and being in an urban setting, but once I chose Georgetown, I decided I would join the team.
Did you have to try out for the team?
Isabelle: Yes. BC’s team is run like any of its other varsity sports, so it’s a very competitive process. A couple of kids are recruited each year. If you are a walk-on, you must send the coach your sailing resume and get approval to try out. The actual try-out process takes several days, and no one—not even returning team members—is guaranteed a spot.
Sammy: Yes. Tryouts were not factored in for recruited sailors but were for walk-ons.
Claire: No. The team allows people to walk on with all different skill levels, so I just contacted the coach and arranged a meeting. We have a large team, with a roster of almost 60 people, so there is a huge range in skill level.
How was your first day of practice?
Isabelle: I don’t remember my first day of practice because my first day was really tryouts. I was super nervous, but tried to focus on working hard and communicating as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! My skipper and I spent transition time practicing tacks and gybes, which was valuable time for us and demonstrated good work ethic to the coach.
Sammy: Really fun. At our school we do no drills, only practice races. The team has been really nice and most of my best friends are on the team.
Claire: There ended up being no wind that afternoon, but we still put all the boats out on the river and floated around. I got to know the team that day without having to focus on my boat handling or skill level, which was nice.
Sammy Shea (Sail 18) sailing at a Tufts practice on Mystic Lake. Tufts recently acquired got a brand new fleet of Larks, one of the many different boats used in collegiate regattas.
What is your practice schedule, including workouts?
Isabelle: Four practices (2:00pm-6:30pm M, W, Th, F) and three workouts (usually MWF mornings) per week. It’s possible to miss one day of practice every week if you have a class that conflicts. Tuesday is our official “NCAA day off.”
Sammy: Tues-Friday (1:30pm–6:00pm or 3:00pm–6:00pm depending on class schedule) with workouts twice a week.
Claire: We have practice Tuesday–Friday from 3:20pm–6:30pm/7:00pm. We have weight lifting on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:00am–9:00am, and are expected to do some cardio on our own time. We also have team meetings every Wednesday night at 8:00pm.
How many regattas did you sail this year?
Sammy: I don't know, 10? I sailed a lot.
Claire: This year I’ve sailed about 10 regattas, traveling to various nearby schools such as the Naval Academy and Washington College, as well as to the Coast Guard Academy and down in Charleston.
How do your teammates help you, including beyond sailing?
Sammy: My teammates are some of my best friends. I have a lot of older teammates who are also studying engineering who have advised me about classes and how to get work done. We have weekly team race meetings at someone’s house where we go through situations from the previous weekends.
Isabelle: At BC, you spend about 40 hours a week with your teammates. They are your best friends, often your roommates, the people you go to for advice, your biggest support, and, sometimes, your most brutally honest critics. BC has a strong team community with very good team captains. As a freshman, I immediately felt as though I had a family.
Claire: My teammates have become a great resource for me this year. They’ve been able to offer me academic advice and they have become some of my closest friends. Our motto is “as one”, so everyone works to help each other, both on the water and off.
Biggest difference between High School and College sailing?
Sammy: Everything is on you. No parents no coach to do anything for you. Our coach administrates getting us on the water to the most regattas in college sailing. However, he doesn’t have time to babysit us, so we have to be self-motivated.
Isabelle: At BC, everything is run by full-time coaches and athletic administrators. You have a trainer, a sports med doc, multiple coaches and administrators (career services, media, tutors, academic advisors, service coordinators, etc.—all athlete specific). Everything is paid for, vans are provided for practice, you fly to all regattas that are far away. Everything is taken care of. In high school sailing, a lot of the arrangements are last minute or very expensive. Having everything taken care of and having a whole team of people ready to help you is a huge difference. Also, everyone on the team is fully committed and very motivated. There is zero partying on regatta weekends. On top of all the required meetings and practices, team captains and upperclassmen plan meetings and additional workouts or strategy sessions and everyone shows up, even though you’re not “required” to. Everyone pushes each other to be better and do more, on and off the water.
Claire: For me, the biggest difference between high school and college sailing was the expectations for the crew. The communication between the skipper and crew about what is happening on the course is the most important part of the role, as things can change so quickly in the fleet.
Any other thoughts?
Sammy: Joining a college sailing team is the easiest way to make friends immediately. By the end of my first night in college, I had already made 60 friends. I highly recommend it.