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The club-sport dilemna

Sailing is a tactical sport. To be successful, a team needs to get a solid start off the line; know when and where to tack or jibe; manage shifts in the wind; avoid fouling, colliding, and capsizing; and perform myriad other physically strenuous maneuvers casual spectators aren’t privy to.

“It’s like a game of chess when you get out in the water,” said Jake Antles, a UW junior and a captain of the UW sailing team.

But the sailing itself isn’t the only part of the sport that requires strategy. In addition to employing the aforementioned techniques in the water, the UW sailing team, made up of a women’s team, a co-ed team, and a team-racing squad, also organizes regattas, plans when and where to travel — and how much money it will cost — and learns how to juggle the time demands of sailing and academics.

“It’s hard,” sophomore team member Molly Utter said. “You can’t dilly-dally at all. There’s no procrastinating. I go to class. I do homework between classes. I go to sailing. I do more homework. There’s just a lot of balancing to it and a lot of time management.”

The team practices upwards of eight hours per week Tuesdays through Thursdays and competes in regattas that often last all weekend, every weekend, during the fall and spring.

As a club sport, sailing does not receive funding from the university and does not employ a paid coach; it is entirely student-run. The team plans all of the regattas it hosts as well as all of the regattas it attends at other schools.

The team is a member of the Northwest Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NWICSA) and typically competes in regattas fairly close to home. However, it also leaves the area multiple times per season to sail at various locations around the nation. These trips necessitate a lot of organization: how to get to the regatta, where to stay for its duration, and how to get equipment. If the team is unable to tow its own boats to regattas, it often has to charter boats from another school, adding another expense.

“It’s really overwhelming,” Antles said. “For example, we travel down to California several times a year, and we have to coordinate where we’re going to sleep. We’ve slept in really nasty motels and on people’s floors or in people’s dorm rooms before.”

An annual grant the team receives from the Seattle Yacht Club partially compensates for the absence of university funding. This, as well as smaller contributions from alumni and donations from businesses that the team auctions off, makes up the team’s main source of income, most of which goes toward paying for travel.

Yet, despite the team’s best efforts, some conflicts cannot be resolved, even with careful planning.

The team-racing squad was the only team in the NWICSA that qualified for the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s national championship regatta in Austin, Texas, June 3-5. However, because the dates for the competition are based on the semester schedule, they coincide with UW’s finals week.

A last-minute decision was made to defer the invitation, as the team decided academics had to take priority. However, the decision still frustrated some team members.

“It’s disappointing,” Utter said. “A lot of times on Thursdays we have team-racing practices, and we invite alumni to come down and practice with us. So, not only did we put a lot of time into it, but our alumni really put a lot of time into helping us.”

Student-athletes who represent the UW in NCAA-sanctioned sports are often given leeway when it comes to missing exams and classes and at times can even arrange to take their tests on the road. The members of the sailing team aren’t so lucky.

“Because we are a club sport, we don’t have any official letters to excuse us, so we usually get a note from an authority figure on the team,” Utter said. “A lot of times teachers are nice about it, but you do get the occasional teachers who just won’t let you go.”

Regardless, the sailing program was still represented nationally in other capacity. The women’s team traveled to Austin, Texas, for the ICSA’s national semifinal regatta earlier this week. Five sailors — Utter, junior Alyce Flanagan, senior Ivy Gooch, freshman Lily Grimshaw, and junior Caylin Corday — made the trip.

The Huskies finished 16th out of the 18 teams in their semifinal race, failing to qualify for the final. To many, including those East Coast powerhouses, that may seem to be evidence that the UW is easily overlooked, relegated to underdog status. Just don’t tell that to the Huskies.

“The other districts definitely underestimate the Northwest because we’re all club sports,” Antles said. “We don’t have paid coaches, and a lot of the East Coast teams have big coaching staffs and tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars behind them. We don’t have that, but that doesn’t mean we’re to be underestimated.”

Reach contributing writer Lauren Smith at sports@dailyuw.com.

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