Want to know more about sailing in college? This session of Shoot the Breeze with Bill will answer your questions about choosing a school, admissions, boats, competition format, time commitment, and the benefits of college sailing. Thanks to Will Huerth for organizing and moderating, and panelists R.J. Porter, Malcolm Lamphere, Kate Cox, and Christian Spencer.
Shoot the Breeze with Bill is part of the Fast Forward series, and is brought to you by the ILYA and SailZing, LLC. The videos are edited recordings of live webinars conducted in spring 2020. Watch the full video, or use the timings below to find the topics that interest you. Or, read a summary of the key insights below.
Outline and Video Timings
- Introductions – the sailors
- Choosing a school and the recruiting process (00:07:00)
- Travel (00:21:30)
- College sailing programs: varsity sport, club sport, student run (00:23:50)
- The value of competing in 420’s and FJ’s (low performance boats) (00:28:36)
- Admissions and assistance; when to start applying and visiting (00:33:20)
- Time commitment, practice schedules, and regatta schedules (00:38:35)
- Recruited sailors, walk-ons, tryouts, experience level (00:44:27)
- Racing formats – single-handed, coed, women’s, team racing, match racing, keelboat (00:48:09)
- Q&A (01:00:00)
- Social aspects
- How to participate in high school sailing if your school doesn’t have a team
- Favorite college sailing venues
- Benefits of college sailing
Quick look insights
Choosing a school
- Go for the quality of the school, not just the quality of sailing
- Is the school strong in your planned major?
- Is the school near other college teams to keep travel time reasonable? East coast is good for this.
- Do you want to travel to regattas and will your skills allow you to make the traveling team?
- Coaches will generally not reach out to you; you must make the contact.
- Be persistent.
- Most schools recruit sailors for “early decision;” start in the summer after your HS sophomore year or early in your junior year. Visit the schools in the spring of your junior year.
- Many team members are not recruited (walk-ons) and some have very little sailing experience. These sailors can still become successful, especially as crews for the more experienced sailors.
Types of college sailing programs and team size
- Varsity sport: generally funded by the school; sailors have access to athletic facilities, and get academic help/support.
- Club sport with coach: funded by school, club dues, fundraising activities, and sailor out of pocket expenses. Might be a cost of $400-500 per year.
- Club sport – student-run: funded by dues, fundraising activities, and out of pocket expenses. Sailors also provide the management of the team.
- Some of the bigger college teams might have 60-80 team members, with 18 boats at practice.
Racing formats and boats
- Single-handed: fleet racing with one or two sailors per school at each event. (Lasers)
- Coed: double-handed fleet racing with two teams (A and B) per school at each event. 30 or more short races per weekend event (420s, FJs)
- Women’s: same as coed, but for women only.
- Team racing: two teams of three boats each racing against each other. See more about team racing here. Here’s a highlights video of the 2018 college team racing nationals. (420s, FJs)
- Match racing: one boat against another boat. See more about match racing here. Here’s a 2014 college match race video. (420s, FJs, or bigger boats at nationals)
- Keelboat: some schools have keelboats and race against other schools in bigger bodies of water.
Time commitment and travel
- Sailing is a fall and spring sport.
- Practices are 2-3 hours, 2-4 times per week. Varsity team practices are mandatory; club team practices are optional.
- Traveling team goes to regattas most weekends during the season. Travel can be anywhere from 5-15 hours each way, usually in vans.
- Must learn to manage your time.
Admissions and assistance
- Colleges do not give scholarships for sailing.
- If a coach is interested in getting you on the team, the coach can help you with admission to the school.
- There’s not a lot time for extended social gatherings at regattas. College sailors interact regularly on social media.
How to participate in high school sailing if your school doesn’t have a team
- Most HS teams will allow you to practice with them if your HS doesn’t have a team.
- Find the nearest HS program and contact the coach.
- It only takes four sailors from your school to make a team.
Benefits of college sailing
- Excellent competition and learning experience. The boats are not high performance, but you learn a tremendous amount about boat handling, control adjustments, tactics. Short race format helps hone starting skills.
- Meet lots of people that will become friends, role models, and networking contacts.
- Visit lots of new places.
- Get to sail in local regattas outside of college activities.
- Good for your resume.
We included the InterCollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) and links to the sailing teams represented by our panelists.