Club sailing team eyes national stage

The University of Miami club sailing team is going somewhere it hasn’t been in two years – district competition.

Competing against varsity teams, the club sailing team has made a name for itself in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association, placing in the top 10 of the South Atlantic district this season.

College sailing, especially popular among Mid-Atlantic and New England schools, has grown into a competitive sport and the sailing Canes have recently stepped up to the challenge.

The team gratefully took in over a dozen newcomers this year, making UM a valid challenger.

“We got a large influx of experienced and excited freshman,” team president Hannah Marshburn said. “Their excitement really built our team chemistry, and we were able to have more practices.”

Those practices – three days a week plus weekends – are held at Coconut Grove Sailing Club, where the team races and drills alongside nationally ranked Ransom Everglades High School.

The student-run club also receives coaching and support from faculty adviser Bill Johns, an oceanographer and professor at University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

While it has often been difficult for the sailing club to govern and run a team that competes against nationally ranked varsity teams, James Remeika, a senior and the former team president, explained that this season has been different.

“Everyone has been putting in a ton of time,” he said. “We’ve finally been able to put together the talent and the practice and hard work.”

Amongst commitment and practicing issues, the team has faced several other obstacles along the way.

While varsity teams that compete in the regatta receive relatively large amounts of funding from their school, the UM club sailing team has a limited budget. Sailors typically must arrange for their own transportation, accommodations and food during the weekends of competition.

Matching up against teams that have the resources often proves to be a challenge, even for the talented club.

“We had to get out there and prove ourselves, and we did,” freshman David Hernandez said. “And we’ve gone really far this fall.”

The South Atlantic district finals, which will be held at the College of Charleston in South Carolina this weekend, will allow the club to see how far they can really go.

The top 10 teams in the district, including powerhouses Charleston and the University of South Florida, will race to determine who will go on in the competition. The top two teams will proceed to ACC competition and the remaining top five will advance to the Atlantic Conference Tournament.

Marshburn is confident in the team’s ability, even against the nationally ranked varsity teams.

“We have a chance at the ACC, but we have a great shot at the ACT,” she said, indicating that Charleston would be their biggest competitor.

Hernandez is also optimistic about next weekend’s regatta.

“We have everything we need,” he said. “We just have to take what we learned up with us to Charleston and stay positive.”