After being disbanded last spring, the Vassar Sailing Club is back in full force. Although in the past, the club has struggled with numbers and funding, this year’s team boasts a large recruitment class itching to get out on the water. Students reinstated the club this past semester as an effort to offer more opportunities in lesser-known sports. President junior Alex Lange, Treasurer senior John Tapscott, Secretary freshman John Terwilliger, as well as Vice Presidents freshmen Sophie Kaplan, Joe Niver and Haley Kardek represent the executive board that administer the club. The exec board members’ efforts have steadily picked up steam throughout the year, with several members coming on board after the activities fair at the beginning of the fall semester.
Since the club’s reinstatement, the members of the exec board have worked out many of the logistical and administrative aspects of restarting the sailing organization. “We have set up meetings with key administrators and our faculty adviser, Bob Brigham, to set the right number of items in order. After only a week of advertising, by putting our sail up all over campus, we had 70 people come to the AFC to take a swim test and showed a grand amount of interest in the team,” said Terwilliger. Nearly twice that initial amount have shown interest in the club, making it the largest pre-organization on Vassar’s campus.
Behind all of these efforts is President Lange, who has been at the helm since the beginning of the year. Lange and Tapscott have been working with their fellow exec board members and other students to build the club from the ground up. “Our President has been a great informational resource and advocate to get us back on the water as well as becoming an actual org again,” added Terwilliger.
Restarting the Sailing Club has presented more logistical obstacles than just meeting with administrators and getting people together for swim tests. The team offers Learn-to-Sail clinics on both land and water. Although all amounts of experience are welcome, swimming proficiency is required. New recruits must also attend a practice to learn the basics of sailing before entering the water. The existing members have taught the more unexperienced students to help them get acclimated to the team and the unfamiliar environment. The process proved to test the older members, who had to remember the basics of sailing, as well.
The club has consistently faced difficultly in getting people to the boathouse so they can actually get on the water. “[W]e started from an org with no money, no members and no idea where Vassar’s boats actually were, to hav[ing] just finished our fourth general body practice, our third on the water, fixing up all the boats so that they are all seaworthy,” said Lange. The VSA disbanded the organization after the spring semester last academic year. The Sailing Team couldn’t even secure facilities because of a definitive lull in sailing activities up until now. “We started off going to a boathouse that hadn’t been touched since before Hurricane Sandy. It reminded me of an Egyptian tomb. However, through a great deal of hard work by our small group, we’ve made the boat house and our fleet usable again,” said Niver.
It had been so long since the sailing team took water that Kardek had to take inventory on essentials and repair boats herself. With the boats water-ready, the team was able to take its first trip on the water in five years. Despite the lack of wind, the positive trip was a testament to the team’s dedication to get the club back on its feet.
The exec board’s goal is not simply to make the transition from pre-organization to officially recognized student organization. “I call us a team, because, as President, I want us to compete against other schools. I come from Annapolis, MD, which is known to some as the sailing capitol of the world…[so] I hope that we’ll be able to race against other schools and win,” Lange said.
Each member of the exec board has vastly different levels of experience. Lange grew up on the Maryland waters and Niver has sailed for the better part of a decade, while other members are comparably inexperienced. Approaching the club as a rookie, however, hasn’t proved a deterrent for the students’ interest in getting the team recognized or participating in the process. “Although I had no sailing experience whatsoever, I was confident in my floormate, Joe Niver, and the others who had experience that we could make something out of what he had,” expressed Terwilliger.
The Sailing Team hopes to continue moving forward and transition from being a pre-organization into a recognized official student organization, and ultimately, compete as a team in some capacity against other school’s sailing teams. One of the only difficulties the Team has encountered in terms of leadership and direction is that their Treasurer, Tapscott will be graduating in just a few weeks.
Fortunately for this band of new sailors, the Team has already found a replacement for their former financial leader, Alison Breeze. The Sailing Team is nonetheless making great strides in garnering popular interest on campus and gaining membership, in part due to the full-sized sail put up on the quad as advertisement. In other words, things are looking up for the sailing club. As Terwilliger expressed, “Every setback that we see and overcome is a testament to the determination and will of our exec board and the enthusiasm of others on campus to revive the sailing team.”