Sailing team rides waves to new heights

Jackson Dingeman and Ben Jassin of the University of Miami sailing team tack the boat at practice in October 2010. The team practices Monday through Thursday and sometimes Sunday on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, Florida. The sailing team is going to Annapolis, Maryland next weekend to compete in the ACCs. Rachel Steinhauser//The Miami Hurricane

A year ago, if you asked Nicole Popp, president of UM’s sailing team, what her goal was for the club, her answer might’ve surprised you: “Be nationally ranked higher than the football team!”

Today, that goal has already come true.

UM’s co-ed sailing team is ranked 12th in the nation for the first time in club history.

According to junior David Hernandez, co-president of the club, college sailing has neither a varsity level nor a club level- varsity teams, club teams and volunteer teams alike all compete for national rankings. This leaves the Hurricanes in the top-two club teams in the country.

“The sailing club has only been around for five or six years, so for us, every race is making history,” Hernandez said.

The club competes in regattas within the South Atlantic conference of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association. The division encompasses Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.

About 20 schools compete in each race and points are awarded based on performance and difficulty of the competition. Performance also determines participation in future regattas. UM has competed with top sailing schools such as Brown, Harvard and No. 1 Boston College.

Eighteen of the top sailing teams in the country are invited to nationals, which take place this year in Oregon. Hernandez is optimistic about the team’s chances to be invited. However, funding might be an issue.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’re doing what we can,” he said.

The sailing club’s fundraising initiatives include hosting learn to sail programs once or twice per semester, as well as selling gear on their Web site,

The club welcomes members of all skill levels. Popp said that most new members are beginners. The club has grown to about 50 members, with a core of 20 that compete.

“Nationals would be a great experience, for us and the club,” Hernandez said.

Popp agreed that it would be an achievement to receive recognition nationally, as well as from UM.

Not only would recognition and a national title benefit the club now, but the future of the sailing team as well. Popp and Hernandez are hoping to attract new talent out of high school; typically, high school sailers go north to more traditional sailing schools.

“What I want is for the UM sailing team to be here 20 years from now,” Hernandez said.

The sailing team meets Wednesdays at 9 p.m. in the UC or on the UC patio. Contact for more information.

Darci Miller can be contacted at