Sports: Main Sail

 

Written by Nathan Winfrey in the February 2011 Issue

Almost everyone in the UCO sailing club is new to the sport, but competition pits them against seasoned sailors from other colleges all across the United States.

“I find the team’s motivation to succeed, with little or no experience, inspiring. They take sailing to heart and, as a man, they have put tears in my eyes,” said Nick Ward, club president.

The sailing club was started by a student in 2006, but the team soon went inactive. As the new faculty adviser and coach, Dr. David Bass resurrected the student organization last fall. The 11-member team holds itself to a high standard to not only learn the basics, but also take on teams of sailors who already have years of experience.

“The thing I find most challenging about racing is going up against more experienced sailors. Knowing how to read the wind and drive the boat in the most efficient manner takes a lot of time on the water, but we are getting there,” said team member Tyler Young.

Mostly comprised of sophomores, with six male and five female members, Coach Bass’ daughter Courtney is the only one on the team with prior sailing experience. “They’ve come so far,” she says. “People are winning races and four months ago, they didn’t even know how to sail.”

When the team competed in its first regatta, everyone else had only been sailing for three weeks, yet they placed third out of five. At a later race, they placed fifth out of eight. “To me, that’s a tremendous victory,” said Coach Bass. “I’m proud of every one of them. They’re learning fast and they’re enthusiastic. They’re in the fleet, fighting - not dragging the rear end. They’re right in the middle of things.”

An upcoming regatta in Austin will be a good clue as to what the future holds for the team. “It will give us a good opportunity to see where we stand among the competition and let us know what we need to work on as we move toward the top,” said Bass.

In a regatta, each boat carries two people, and the UCO club uses two boats. “Everybody we take gets rotated,” he explains. The first-place boat gets one point; the second place boat gets two points, and so on. The winning boat is the one with the fewest points at the end of the regatta.

“No matter how we finish, it’s all about being able to do the best you can. Because it’s a team effort, you really have to be in sync with your team,” said team member Becca Latimer. “It’s extremely rewarding because you learn a lot of skills on the water in a sailboat that you can use in everyday life. You learn leadership, communication, and teamwork skills.”

Young agrees. “Teamwork is a very important part of sailing,” he said. “In a race that might be 5 mph, every little tactic counts. Being able to rely on others and work with others is key, and that’s important anywhere, not just in sailing.”

“I’ve been racing sail boats for almost 40 years, and we learn something new every time we go out. You never learn it all,” Coach Bass says. “It’s a sport they can enjoy essentially all their lives. You can sail for as long as you’re able to get on a boat.”

His wife, Donna Bass, is the assistant coach. Since it’s a student organization, the staff works on a volunteer basis. The UCO sailing team is an intercollegiate club sport, under the Southeast Intercollegiate Sailing Association. “It’s the largest district in the United States,” says Bass.

The team is hosted by the Oklahoma City Boat Club on Lake Hefner, where they practice. The Lighthouse Foundation has contributed to the team’s needs. Bass has been involved with the boat club for 25 years and works closely with the Oklahoma City University team too. They share boats, coaching responsibility, and co-hosted a regatta.

The team practices year-round, although most collegiate competition is in spring and fall semesters. They have the opportunity to sail with other, non-collegiate sailors, all 12 months out of the year.

“I love the challenge of understanding where we are in the water, where my opponents are, and where the wind is going,” Ward says. “The intensity of racing sailboats is a high. You are really feeling it on the water. However, when you come to shore, the friendships just grow stronger.”

The team will currently accept UCO students who are experienced sailors, but it’s too cold to train new sailors in the winter months. Beginners who want to join in the summer are encouraged to contact Coach Bass at 974-5772.

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