The University of Michigan sailing team has a unique sailing facility in that it is a club owned and managed by Michigan alumni. The Michigan Sailing Club is located on Baseline Lake in Portage, Michigan, a 30-minute drive from campus. It was established in 1938, and sailing has been a part of the school ever since.
“While the size of the team and talent fluctuates, Michigan Sailing has been consistently a part of the campus since it began,” says Sydney Thompson, the media chair for the team. “We are constantly looking to improve our team and its structure for future Michigan sailors so that the sport lives on in this community.”
The sailing team pays dues to the club and lends its help as payment to use it. In 2015, the team also purchased a fleet of 12 FJs, which it keeps at the club. Most of the time the team practices in light and shifty conditions on flat water, with an occasional windy day.
Michigan hosts two regattas at home, the Big Ten Team Race and the Carey-Price Regatta. “These are both [Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association] events that we very much look forward to hosting each fall and spring,” says Thompson.
The team is run by an executive board made up of two co-captains, a treasurer, a long-term fundraising chair, a short-term fundraising chair, a recreational sports liaison, a regatta chair/MCSA liaison, a recruitment chair and a secretary. The well-organized group meets every Monday to discuss team logistics and has chalk talks in the winter months. The board also meets after to further discuss team business.
Board members run practices on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, until the lake freezes in November. They do the majority of the coaching, except for during spring break training and nationals, when the team hires an outside coach. The lake thaws sometime between March and April, meaning the team is competing in regattas in the spring before it has a chance to practice at the home venue.
“Sailors are required to pay semester dues after attending two practices or one regatta,” explains Thompson. “There is no mandatory amount of practices they must attend, but we strongly encourage all sailors to come to our Monday meetings and weekly practices, as attendance is a large factor of the regatta selection process.” Each year the team strives to qualify for semifinals at spring nationals and to make it to the finals. But another important goal for the Michigan sailors is to grow their team and attract sailors from beginner to advanced.
“We feel it’s important to get as many people excited about the sport as possible,” says Thompson. “In recent years we have set a large emphasis on reaching out to alumni and creating a strong network with them to keep team members involved after graduation.” In October, the team will host a new alumni regatta that it hopes to make an annual tradition to continue to grow the team base.
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Editor’s Note: The print version of this article in Sailing World’s November/December 2016 issue called Zim’s 420 the “Z420.” A correction has been made above, and Sailing World regrets the error.