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Spring Sailing in Ohio

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Spring has sprung, which means the brave (or the stupid) are suiting up to harness the spring breeze on the water. As the SAIL intern this semester, I’ve been itching to finally go out and do what I’ve been reading and writing about since January. I’m also staring graduation in the face right now, knowing that this semester is full of "lasts," but I hadn’t even had a "first" collegiate regatta yet. So, when the opportunity presented itself last weekend, I couldn’t pass it up. I packed my warmest sailing clothes and set off for my first regatta of the year.

Ohio State University held their Buckeye Interconference Easter weekend, which brought two days of competitive sailing for all teams. Sailing in C420s with the Toledo sailing team, I crewed for my brother Iain in the A fleet, while skipper Brian Pribe and crew Kenny Tran sailed in B fleet. We left for Columbus Friday afternoon, anticipating a weekend of good times and even better sailing. The Yacht Club, an off-campus house that is inhabited by members of the Ohio State sailing team, hosted the regatta-opening party, and Saturday morning marked the beginning of racing for the weekend.

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I don’t do a lot of racing, not like I used to, and I especially do not race in what most fair weather sailors would consider the “off season” in Ohio. Saturday started at a chilly 45 degrees and warmed up to 57 by the end of the last race, so I could finally feel my fingers. Sunday was far colder, starting at 35 and only getting up to 45. Needless to say, drysuits were abundant and I had to scavenge for boots, gloves and a hat. I do have to thank Carly Fracker for outfitting me this weekend, as well as the former boy scout on the Ohio State team who kept the fire in the club fireplace going.

The regatta was held at Hoover Sailing Club which is on an inland lake, where the course was short and races were quick. Inland lake racing is one of the best tests of a racer's knowledge and tactics; because there is land on all sides of the course, the wind tends to be shifty and blustery instead of the consistent conditions common on open water. I learned a lot about playing the shifts and tested my ability to read the wind and was happy to learn that I was still able to crew after not competing in a 420 for almost four years. I can’t take any of the credit though, as it was Iain’s tactical skills that carried us through the weekend.

Iain and I started the day off with a first and a second in the first rotation, competing heavily with the University of Michigan boat, who turned out to be our boat to beat for the rest of the regatta. The conditions were common for spring, with mild wind speed overall but big breezy puffs. Our B team raced well, matching our first and second, and for the whole day both fleets stayed in the top three in all of their finishes. By the eighth race on Saturday, team Toledo had a 12-point lead over Michigan.

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Time between rotations was spent inside Hoover’s club house, trying to warm up and talking with the people around you about how your racing is going. Sailing is generally a very friendly sport, but I’ve never seen so many people seem so carefree about how their racing is going for them. Everyone was laughing and sharing stories, both related and unrelated to sailing. Nobody seemed to take themselves or their sailing too seriously, although it is hard to beat yourself up over performance when you can barely feel your fingers.

Sunday was a real nailbiter, having only two rotations to widen the tie between Toledo and Michigan in the A fleet. We went into racing with high expectations for ourselves, knowing that we needed to either win or stay right on Michigan’s tail to maintain the team’s lead. With shiftier and stronger winds than Saturday, Michigan’s A team managed to close the gap we had created while we trailed behind, making a few bad calls that cost us second in the second race. After the second rotation, where my skipper and I both forgot we were sailing a W3 instead of a W4 in the last race, we came off the water with less hope than we started. We encouraged our B team to win, and they did just that. Pulling off two great starts, Brian and Kenny pulled through in the last rotation, securing two bullets by wide margins each. The relief was palpable.

In the overalls, Toledo went home with a first place chocolate bunny, while A fleet came second to Michigan and B fleet finished first. It was some of the best racing I’ve ever seen and has definitely encouraged me to get back on the water. Now, if only summer could come a bit faster...

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