A brief look at UMass’ sailing team

Bye bye boats?

%28Courtesy+of+the+US+Sailing+Official+Facebook+Page%29
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A brief look at UMass’ sailing team

(Courtesy of the US Sailing Official Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of the US Sailing Official Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of the US Sailing Official Facebook Page)

(Courtesy of the US Sailing Official Facebook Page)

By Rebekah Panaro, Collegian Correspondent

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The cool afternoon wind blew quietly across the lake. Lapping against the hull were the gentle waves from Lake Arcadia, the University of Massachusetts sailing team’s official practice area at Belchertown Beach. There are two consistencies at Lake Arcadia: the air is either incredibly calm or a wild, rushing wind. But even when the weather isn’t on their side, the sailors never give up quite so easily. Instead they attempt to harness any power of the wind to continue the practice. After all, each sailor only needs to attend one practice per week and many could only make one. They have to make the best of it no matter the weather conditions.

Through an exclusive interview with alumni chair Charles ‘Chad’ Warren Klinefelter, readers of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian finally obtain some answers about the mysterious UMass sailing team. Klinefelter is proud of where the team is now compared to when he first tried to join.

“I wanted to join my first semester, fall 2014, but the team was so disorganized that nobody saw my emails for months,” Klinefelter said. He explained how he “literally had to track [members of the team] down at the spring activities expo and be like ‘Hey, so did you guys get my email(s)?’ And they said, ‘Oops, nope, but come join!’ One semester later, I was the team’s treasurer and co-captain, and the rest is history.”

“Also, the team has definitely gotten better at answering emails over the last few years,” Klinefelter joked.

As our conversation continued, Klinefelter dove into the team’s history, including the rocky years between 2005-12. The UMass team was “the only sailing presence in the [Pioneer] Valley,” and it relied on older boats from Mount Holyoke College and Amherst College, whose teams had disbanded. Unfortunately, Amherst College’s separate team had melded with the UMass team resulting in the administration selling off Amherst College’s boats, thinking the team was dissolved. Luke Haggerty of Amherst College advocated for six out of the ten boats to be bought back by the administration. Through his efforts, Haggerty made a mark in the two team’s histories. Without him, the teams would not exist today, nor would they be functional.

Klinefelter describes his relationships with the other sailors as positive interactions. Feeling emotional, Klinefelter explained how he “love[s] [his] fellow sailors” and made amazing friends who stayed with him “beyond the sport.”

“I can’t stress enough how much I mean this,” Klinefelter said. “Since I’m just a few months out of school, I have friends who are on the team still, as well as friends who are fellow UMass sailing alumni. In both cases, I have many great people to thank for so many things. And this team, through both the excitement and stress that it can bring, has seemed to be good at turning people into friends for years now. It’s like…electric. Yeah, let’s go with that. Electric.”

As members of the team, each person is crucial to both their own and their partner’s safety. In the Flying Junior “FJ” boat, there is typically only a crew member and a captain, and these two heavily depend on one another. Even though sailing is not always dangerous, it can quickly become hazardous in seconds. When the winds pick up, one could potentially be thrown from the boat or get caught in rope underwater if they’re not careful. Ever hear of the old saying “never swim alone?” This is especially true for sailors. But it is this intensity that creates strong bonds from sailor to sailor and affirms Klinefelter’s firm belief that the UMass sailing team doesn’t just produce strong sailors, but strong friendships as well.

Established in 1995 by a few undergrads with a boat, the team has swelled to over 50 members at any given time. But one of the key issues the team faces is being able to accommodate for all of its members. With only a small handful of boats, it cannot always have every member out on the water during practice. Practices last semester were held three times a week and priority was given to those entering into sailing meets, or regattas, while the other sailors learned practical sailing techniques on land. However, the only way to truly gain experience is to go out on the water. Currently, the UMass sailing team is raising money to buy its own boats so this won’t be a problem for much longer. With boats to call its own, the UMass sailing team is only a few donations away from being able to further enrich the lives of future generations of sailors.

Treasurer Eric Adams also sat down to divulge more social aspects of the team. Since the team cannot rely upon UMass for much financial help, the team relies on itself. This helps strengthen the entire team and encourages it to work together to have enough money to continue to go to meets and work toward purchasing a fleet of its own. To do this, it deviates from traditional fundraising methods, like its LIT Nightclub fundraiser. In this, the team rented out the nightclub and sold tickets to help fund a fleet to call its own.

Despite its rough beginnings, the UMass sailing team has been persistent in its efforts to preserve its team. The sailors refuse to sink no matter what UMass can afford to give or not give to the team. Even when struggling, the team members respect each other and still find reasons to smile on the shores of Lake Arcadia. After all, being a sailor certainly isn’t for everyone. However, for those students who live in the Five College Community and seek to answer the call to freedom the waters offer, the UMass sailing team will be waiting for them with open oars.

Interested in learning more about the UMass sailing team? Follow them at @umasssailing (Instagram) and UMass Amherst Sailing (Facebook).

Rebekah Panaro can be reached at [email protected]