The University of California San Diego (UCSD) sailing team has quadrupled in size over the last four years—from 10 to 45 members—making it one of the largest and fastest growing teams on the Pacific coast. With the help of team captain John Olson and volunteer coach Dave Wright, the foundation has been laid for the team to continue to succeed.
Some of the challenges that club sailing teams face include finding funds, attracting talent, and having dedicated leadership. This student-run club team has been able to overcome these hurdles by putting in the time and effort to build an organization that will last.
Olson’s passion for sailing drove him to help restructure the team. “This meant taking time out for myself and others to practice in order to train complete newbies,” he says. He and other veteran sailors have also created a sense of community around the team and put on clinics and regattas for other sailors, new and old, to learn and compete.
“Once we were able to provide excellent quality for everyone on the team, people started bringing their friends and the team really sold itself,” Olson says. They saw the results of their efforts this year when around 200 people signed up—they had to turn people away for the first time.
“The team seems to gain strength every year, and the groundwork is certainly there to take the team into the future,” Wright says. Wright is in his fifth year of coaching and supports the sailors by traveling with them to their qualifying regattas. He also helps the captains identify strengths and weaknesses in the team.
Three captains and four officers manage the team’s business, which includes supervising team finances, planning regattas, organizing clinics, and staying in touch with alumni. The team is lucky to receive about 20 percent of their budget from the university. Team dues, alumni, donations, and sponsorships make up the rest.
Olson says they add one new FJ to their current fleet of eight boats every one to two years. The team sails out of Mission Bay YC, about 20 minutes from campus.
Olson, with the other team captains and officers, has already started the process of training the newly-elected team officials. This involves passing down knowledge and advice learned from many others, including Olson’s own parents and the head coaches from Stanford University and the University of Hawaii.
“We’ve set the bar and provided the infrastructure to make sure the team can excel,” says Olson. “Now it’s just a matter of the next group picking up the torch and running with it.”