After a year hiatus in the 2013-14 college sailing season, the American University Club Sailing Team made a comeback last year and is rebuilding their team. Gaining traction when starting a new club at a university is difficult and it is especially challenging when your activity requires boats, a place to store and sail them, and a required number of participants. However, the American sailors are slowly navigating their obstacles and making headway.
“Currently, we do not have a fleet of boats, but we are in the process of buying two used 420s,” says Audrey Milite, the team’s president. Last year, Georgetown University allowed them to practice in their boats out of the Washington Sailing Marina, where American will continue to practice when they acquire their 420s. The marina is located about 30-45 minutes drive from campus in Alexandria, Va.
The American team is student run and self-coached. It is comprised of a president, vice president, treasurer, regatta coordinator and a media outreach person as named roles among the sailors. The team also has a faculty advisor, Jolie Roetter, who assists with boat and team management.
Of course, one of the most important steps the team must take in building their team is drawing interest.
“We just held an involvement fair on our quad which attracted a lot of student interest,” says Milite. “We also have Instagram and Facebook accounts to get the word out on social media,” she continues, “This year, we have found a lot of interest with people who are experienced sailors and hope to keep their interest and build our team.”
“By signing up for regattas we create a team bond through the few people we have that stick with it,” says Milite. Last year the team had around 10 dedicated sailors and they are hoping that this year that number will increase to about 20 people.
As a second year club sport, the team was allotted some of the university’s club sports budget, which will help them with transportation, boat and slip costs.
The school also requires that the team fundraise a minimum of three times each semester with restaurants around Tenleytown, where the school is located.
“Even if we don’t make money, its still really good public relations for the team,” says Milite. “We are also trying to get in touch with alumni or sponsors who would be willing to help us buy boats or sails,” she says.
“Because we’re such a new team, we’re taking any and all interest available, from people with no experience in boats, to those with lots of experience,” says Milite. “We do only allow experienced sailors to race, however,” she says.
Without boats, so far this year, the team is not able to practice. This limits their ability to teach new sailors and hone the skills of the experienced sailors, but with the addition of at least a couple of boats, the team will continue to gain momentum.
Also on the to-do list, says Milite, “We hope to implement a workout schedule for our sailors, as we have access to the school gym.” Each college team starts somewhere and American is making progress.