The best way to describe the University of Vermont sailing team is as a cooperative. Team members, alumni, parents and the coach all contribute to keeping the team running smoothly. From helping with coaching duties to fundraising to clerical work, the UVM sailing community pulls it all together. “The way the team is set up, the sailors take on a lot of tasks that an assistant coach might otherwise do,” says Caroline Patten, the team’s head coach. Patten is in her first year of coaching at Vermont, and she says the sailors and local alumni have helped make her first season a success.
“College sailing is awesome to coach,” she says. “The sailors are incredibly responsive to criticism and are all there because they want to be. For the most part, the UVM sailors get that if they want to be better, they have to work harder — and that attitude is super rewarding to coach.” When Patten can, she also likes to hop in a boat and sail with the team in practice.
The team sails its 18 FJs out of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center in Burlington, Vermont, which is about a 25-minute walk from campus. Patten says the LCCSC is in the final stages of fundraising for a state-of-the-art 22,000-square-foot Community Waterfront Center. “The Community Sailing Center is more than just a facility for us, though,” says Patten. “They are excited about where the team is headed and have been incredibly supportive.”
An advantage that Patten has discovered while competing in the NEISA conference is the variety of the events every weekend. “With 35 active sailors on our team, it’s important to get everyone traveling at some point over the season to a solid event,” she says. “NEISA is such a strong conference that the lower-level events are excellent training for the higher-level events in ways that we can’t simulate in practice.”
As an example, Patten says, despite UVM graduating five of their top skippers last year, “It didn’t feel like we [were] playing catch-up as much, as we may have been in another district, because our current top sailors had already been traveling for the past few seasons.”
One aspect of the team that Patten appreciates is that being a club team at the university has not made a difference in the opportunities the team has or how the members function as a whole.
“Varsity status is something we will be working on with the school in the near future,” says Patten. “For now, the extra effort that the [sailor] officers put in toward making the team function smoothly only seems to make everyone appreciate a little more how fortunate we are to go sail on beautiful Lake Champlain every day.”