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Sailing club treads into uncharted waters

Sailboats of different school teams at Northwestern’s regatta. Photo contributed.

Grinnell has always been supportive of unique student interests. All students are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities provided by Grinnell’s willingness to fund and build a variety different student groups as possible—even when it may seem unreasonable for a rural Midwestern location. Such is the case for one of Grinnell’s more adventurous student groups, the Grinnell Sailing Club founded by Ben Brewer ’11.

Sailboats of different school teams at Northwestern’s regatta. Photo contributed.
Sailboats of different school teams at Northwestern’s regatta.
Photo contributed.

“I was on a canoe trip with GORP [Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program] and I overheard Joe Lohman [’14], who’s the commodore of the sailing team, and I got really excited because I’ve been sailing most of my life,” recalled Jack O’Malley ’17 of how he first heard of the Sailing Club.

The club has yet to hold regular meeting times, but its members have managed to increase over the years as the word continues to spread of the group.

“There are some new freshman sailors on the team, which is awesome because before that there were no new people,” Zev Braun ’15 said.

Despite not having too many bodies of water in Iowa to use for sailing purposes, the group has found opportunities to expand their activities and experience.

The current members are all very optimistic about the club’s future, especially those who travelled to Chicago to participate in a regatta, called “Wet Your Willie,” hosted by Northwestern University, on Thursday and Friday, April 10 and 11.

The competition hosted several larger schools, including University of Notre Dame and University of Chicago. Despite being a major step forward, Grinnell’s Sailing Club will still need a fair amount of funding and growth in order to compete at the level of the schools they encountered.

“As of right now the boats are really small and they’re not the boats we race on, and up until two weeks ago there wasn’t enough interest to actually practice—because that was the first time we got the team together, that was the first time we raced [in Northwestern’s regatta] as a bigger team, ” O’Malley said.

However, the experience proved to be immensely rewarding regardless.

“When you’re watching it, it looks really low-key and a little boring … but when you’re on the boat the wind is intense—it’s trying to push the boat over underwater,” Braun explained. “You’re leaning out on the same side that the wind is coming at you … it gets pretty intense.”

Surprisingly, Grinnell was one of the bigger teams there, but regrettably did not perform as well as they might have hoped.

Grinnell’s Sailing Club at their race in Chicago. Photo contributed.
Grinnell’s Sailing Club at their race in Chicago.
Photo contributed.

“We unfortunately came in last place. But that’s okay—we had a lot of fun.” O’Malley said.

Due to Grinnell’s location, the club has not been able to practice as much as it would like. The members are working to change this, though. The group is currently trying to hold more practices at the University of Iowa, as well as gain knowledge of more experienced sailors.

Despite the competitive nature the Sailing Club is hoping to shift toward, the group is still very open to having new members with no sailing experience whatsoever.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, I was chilling in Joe Lohman’s room one night and he was like, ‘Hey you should join the Sailing Club’,” said Malachi Wickman ’16.

And despite never having been on a sailboat before, Wickman found the club to be thoroughly accommodating of her lack of experience. Most of the members shared this similar experience. “I was kind of just thrown into it, and I learned by doing,” Braun said.

While sailing is something that not many people will have had experience with before, this is precisely the allure of the Sailing Club to its members.

“I think the best thing about [the club] is just the adventure of doing something different,” Wickman said.

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