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The Scarlet & Black

Sailing starts, finishes season on high note

Over the past two weekends the Grinnell Sailing Team competed in two regattas, placing 11th out of 17 last weekend at Northwestern University on Lake Michigan and taking second the weekend before at the University of Iowa on Lake McBride. Undoubtedly, sailing on Lake Michigan was a completely different experience from the small lake just north of Iowa City or Rock Creek State Park, where the team practices—but that it is not to say the conditions had a negative impact.

“It was really windy on Saturday, and we were having to deal with some really big swells,”  Kyle Walters ’12 said. “It was very different but because we were on Lake Michigan, we were in more stable boats, with more rounded hulls, so we simply had to adjust to the extremes between the tops and bottoms of the swells.”

In fact, if anything, the wind helped more than it hurt. “Ben [Brewer ’11, who serves as web editor for the S&B] and I are a heavier team, so we go really slowly when there’s light wind and faster when the winds are stronger,” Walters said. “As Saturday went on the winds were getting faster and we were placing higher, but then they reached 16 knots and, for insurance purposes, the rest of the races had to be canceled.”

In addition to having to deal with the different conditions, Halley Coplin ’12, the boat partner of Jonah Ellman ’12, was unable to attend because of illness, forcing Jonah to sail with a student from Northwestern.

“It definitely hurt a bit,” Ellman said. “I would have gone faster with Halley, since we’ve sailed together before and she’s a better sailor than the girl who replaced her.” 

In spite of those setbacks, the team had a very positive outlook on the weekend.

“Overall, we felt that we did really well, especially [considering] Jonah was sailing with someone from Northwestern,” Walters said. “We beat all the schools who we beat at Iowa, but also beat Illinois who had finished first the weekend before.”

Those teams included the University of Indiana, the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Northwestern University, among others. These were just the first two regattas that Grinnell’s sailing team had ever officially been invited to in their short history.

“We went to another regatta last semester, but were only invited as a filler when another school dropped out, so [the University of Iowa’s regatta] was our first time getting a formal invite,” Walters said. “It was cool to show up without anyone knowing who we were and really make a name for ourselves by coming in second to Illinois by only one point.”

Ellman and Brewer both hail from Chicagoland, while Coplin and Walters are both from the Northeast. But all had sailing experience before coming to Grinnell. 

“One of the best thing about the regattas was the sense of camaraderie among the teams,” Walters said. “I’m from the East where people can be really mean on the water, but here everyone was out there competing for themselves just as much as against one another.”

The main obstacle the team now faces is purchasing some boats so that they can practice and teach sailing at Rock Creek, but with such great results in their first regattas, it certainly seems like a red sky at night.

“We’re working with [GORP director] Dave Zeiss on getting some boats for the future. There’s growing interest and some younger kids on campus who have had a lot of experience. We’re really looking forward to the future, and the biggest issue right now is getting boats,” Ellman said. “I think we could really have a lot of fun and be a pretty good team in the Midwest.”

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