Georgia Sailing Goes Big Time

From upstart roots to accolades, Georgia's College Sailing club team continues to strengthen

University of Georgia college racing
Getting better recognition as a club sport at a big university requires great effort and determination.Courtesy University of Georgia Sailing Team

The University of Georgia Sailing Team hit a high point this spring when named Competitive Sports Club Sport of the Year at the university. For the sailors, such recognition is four years in the making.

“We’ve been working tirelessly for the past four years to check all of the boxes, satisfy the club sports requirement, and most importantly—to be the best club we can be for our members,” says Allison Chenard, the race team captain. “It’s a huge accomplishment as the university has 40 club sports. Being recognized for our hard work was a great pat on the back and motivation to keep growing.”

To be eligible to win this award, the team had to meet administrative compliance by following club sport policies and attending mandatory training sessions, as well as performance criteria by representing the team and UGA within the local community, the general sailing community and at regattas outside the area.

About four years ago, sailing team members decided to expand the sailing club to be more reachable and therefore more successful as a whole with the goal of getting more students out on the water in the capacity they desired.

“We worked to make it affordable, accessible, and diverse, and because of that we grew from 12 members in 2015 to upwards of 85 at our highest point in four years,” Chenard says. “Running a club sport is like running a small ­business, and there’s a staggering amount of paperwork, emails, meetings, etc. As the club grew, those requirements with UGA only amplified and it was a task for the officers to operate on a bigger scale to be awarded this honor.”

Changes the team made include expanding from the race team format, which has existed at the school for 40 years, to include a cruising team and an offshore team. The team practiced on a small lake near the school with only two boats, but now has a membership with the Lake Lanier Sailing Club, which allows the sailors to use the facilities, eight 420s and coach boats, as well as being a part of the yacht club community.

"When the team joined Lake Lanier Sailing Club our program began to come together into what it is today,” Chenard says. “Joining also gave us the ability to expand and train properly to compete at a higher level with the other teams in SAISA.”

The team used to have about 12 dedicated members, but grew to about 34 members in the 2018-19 school year. It held nearly 51 practices this year and traveled to more regattas.

“The recent expansion of the team is being supported by a healthy cycle of bringing up new members in the values we hold to eventually hand the program to those who have the same drive,” Chenard says. “Our current seniors and recent alumni should be credited with setting the tone of the new program. They’ve attacked the goals of the new team with such vivacity and, in turn, have attracted students with the same goals and mindset to carry it forward beyond their time at UGA. It took the dedication and vision of that small group four years ago to build the strong foundation that we have today.”