College Sailing Off-season, On

How do college sailors in the Northeast deal with the off-season? Get south or get to the gym.

Unlike schools south of the Carolinas, which don’t skip a beat due to their sunshine-infused environment, New England provides an obstacle to the most competitive sailing district in the country. With temperatures weaving through the negatives, sailing is completely out of the question. So how exactly do NEISA sailors manage to stay on their game when they are snowed in and the sun vanishes at 4:30?

Some sailors resort to southern travels. Dylan Vogel, a junior at Roger Williams, doesn't feel the same motivation by simply sweating at the gym. He takes it one step further to stay ahead. “It really doesn’t matter if I’m match racing, team racing or fleet racing; I need to be in a boat. Quantum Key West and the Marstrom 32 [Cup, in Miami] sent me back to school with the motivation I needed to get through the spring season.”

Upon his return to the snowy north, Vogel takes control of his fitness and nutrition as it becomes habit when the season kicks into gear.

"Social lives are shoved out the window to make way for 20 hours of sailing each week."

Michael Zonnenberg, of the University of Vermont sailing team, feels NEISA is at somewhat of a disadvantage due to their bitter, ice-cold temperatures. “Lake Champlain is frozen from Vermont to New York, and this is the worst it has been in a while,” he says. “We aren't sure when we are going to be able to sail on the lake because it depends so much on the weather.”

The team first pulls their drysuits out March 1, at the Thames River Team Race, just before heading to Maryland for spring break training. Since iceboating is out of the question in an FJ, the team focuses any and all preseason efforts in the gym. As with most shivering NEISA teams, off-water training and the team attitude become controlling factors in the success of their on-the-water season.

While most sailors are never really in an off-season, NEISA sailing teams have accepted a unique preseason-training regimen. At Roger Williams, coach Amanda Callahan essentially adds a month of “sailing class” to keep her sailors on their game, both mentally and physically. She requires her sailors to attend two rules talks and three workouts a week in an attempt to make up for the month of “water-time” that doesn’t exist in NEISA.

Each rules talk sends the sailors home with an assignment pertaining to the rule or call discussed in class. As far as fitness is concerned, the RWU team focuses on cardio intensive workouts. Running an average of 28 miles in the preseason and alternating between workouts specific to core and back strengthening, the goal is to emulate on-the-water-moves. Between the P90X AB Ripper, TRX core, and creative cardio intensive circuits (with squat jumps and kettlebell swings), the team experiences plenty of variety in the gym. To uphold a positive, collaborative team spirit, each sailor is assigned a specific workout time. With no less than six sailors per workout, each workout helps build a sense of togetherness. And though these workouts typically leave the sailors sore and tired, they are expected to “hit the gym” on their off days. “The month of off-the-water training is crucial. If the team comes back in peak physical condition and can retain all of the information from the classroom, it presents an advantage to our season as a whole,” says Callahan.

Eventually, as the promise of warmer weather draws closer, social lives are shoved out the window to make way for 20 hours of sailing each week. Week-long highs of 30 degrees do not make for exceptionally beautiful sailing, so the team is forced to live in the future. With dreams of balmy southern spring training trips just two weeks away, NEISA sailors buckle down in hopes that this frostbiting weather will pass sooner rather than later. They have a promise that keeps them warm--the promise that when the snow has melted and the ice picks are stowed away, the travel, the training, and even the bone-chilling shivering will pay off and they’ll hit the water without skipping a beat.

Rachel Perry is an editorial intern at Sailing World and journalism major at RWU.

Roger Williams Sailing

Roger Williams Sailing

When the snow starts to melt, it's go time for the Roger Williams University sailing team (R.I.)Abby Cook