Sailing club gets competitive
"Sign me up," said Sawyer Hopps, a junior at DePaul, one of the eight members of DePaul's Sailing Club. The eight-member team practices four days a week at Columbia Yacht Club, just south of Navy Pier.
"I have always wanted to be involved in junior sailing," said Sean Palizza. Palizza organized seven of his friends, found a faculty advisor and approached the school about setting up a club sport. Palizza was surprised with the positive and quick response from the school.
Officially there are eight members in the club, but new people are always welcome. "We are always looking for people to come out on the water," said Palizza.
The Midwest Collegiate Association officially acknowledged DePaul's Sailing Club in February. The group applied for membership because the NCAA does not acknowledge sailing. Other schools in this group include Marquette University, Purdue University, University of Illinois and University of Iowa.
The Student Activity Fund has been "very generous" and recently donated $1,400 to help defray the club's expenses. Columbia Yacht club charges $350 a person to cover the cost of the coaches, classroom use, maintenance of the 420 boats, as well as the motor boats the coaches use. This new donation will reduce club member fees to $200. The yacht club will recieve $75, 25 dollars of which will go to the sailing club to cover hotel and regatta fees.
DePaul recently donated funding to purchase life jackets for the club. "It would be super cool if they (the life jackets) said DePaul, then we would look really official," said Ewart.
The sailing club uses the 420 sailboat for both practices and future regattas. The 420 sailboat is aptly named because it is 4.2 meters long. This small two-person dingy was designed for high school and college students to learn how to sail. The 420 is the pre-curser to the 470 sailboat, which is used in Olympic competitions.
There are two types of races that the team can participate in during the regatta. "Fleet racing is every boat for itself in fleets as large as 20 boats," said Palizza. "Team racing is a total of six boats on the water at once, three teams from one school against three teams from another school," said Palizza.
"Team racing is actually a lot of fun. You try to get the other team to break a rule and make them have to do a lap," said Palizza.
This dedicated crew practices four days a week. Typically members make three out of the four practices, according to Hopps. A typical practice starts at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in a classroom at the Columbia Yacht Club. Once the boat assignments are handed out the members proceed to the boats where they prepare them for sailing. Practices usually end around 7 p.m. Saturday practices are from noon to 4 p.m.
Palizza explained that they practice a lot of rolling starts. "In a regatta you can't pass the start line before the gun shot," said Palizza. Since boats don't have breaks it is important to learn how to keep the sailboat from crossing the start line before it is time.
Frigid water temperatures do not detour this dedicated team from practicing. Spring practices began in March when the water was 38 degrees. "If you're not wearing a dry suit you will need to shower at the end of practice," said Palizzo.
In addition to regattas, the group is also hoping to participate in a "bird bath." A "bird bath" is when a college invites other schools to participate in a regatta. The host school supplies the boats as well as housing for the participants.
Members are already looking forward to next fall. "Fall is going to be a big season for us," said Hopps. "There are three or four regattas right here in Chicago."
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