Getting Ready for College Sailing

Published on July 17th, 2017

In this report for SpinSheet magazine, Elle Wells offers advice on how to succeed and enjoy college sailing.


I knew I wanted to sail in college at an early point in my high school and junior sailing days. I loved sailing and dreamed of being on a team and traveling every weekend to race at a high level. My sailing coaches were my role models, and they were all alumni of some of the country’s top sailing programs. It seems like just a few weeks ago I was a senior in high school, excited to join the college sailing world.

Today, after five seasons of college sailing, I can tell you that it’s everything you dream of, and more. That said, college sailing certainly has its challenges. As a new class of talented high schoolers prepares to jump into the wonderful world of college sailing in the fall, I wanted to share five lessons I’ve learned as a college sailor.

Get in shape: Now, arguably more than ever, fitness is a key element in college sailing (and sailing overall). The top teams are working out together and independently to get their bodies in the best shape possible.

Going into college I thought I was in shape (and I was), but I still had so much more room to get stronger and build my endurance! The better you perform in the gym the better you’ll perform on the water. Committing to improving your fitness level before you show up to school in the fall will make you stand out among your new teammates.

Talk to your coaches: Build a relationship with your coaches early on. Check in with them over the summer; ask them questions—don’t harass them, but reach out a few times. When you show up on campus for move-in, visit their offices. The sooner you start to feel comfortable talking to your coaches, the better. Having a good relationship with your coach is critical to having the best experience in college sailing.

Ask questions: Similar to how you should ask questions of your coaches, start asking questions of your teammates early on as well. Even if you think it’s a stupid question, ask it. Ask your skipper or crew when you’re sailing together; ask a skipper or crew who is “better” than you a specific question as you’re de-rigging. If you’re feeling super bold, ask a question in the debrief. Chances are if you’re wondering it, another freshman is too.

Ask more questions—about classes: Ask teammates about classes before you register for them. Depending on the size of your school and the popularity of your major, your teammates might have taken the class before. Utilize your older, more experienced friends to help you be the most successful in school.

Stay ahead of your work: It seems simple, but it isn’t. Very quickly, practices, workouts, and traveling with the team will catch up with you. When you have some free time early on in the semester, or on your off weekends, get ahead on your work. Personally, I never leave for a regatta before I finish all my assignments due Monday.

Some people have success with doing work in the van or at the hotel, but I recommend never leaving anything up to chance. Besides, it’s way more fun to watch a movie on your laptop, or chat with your friends and coaches, or better yet sleep on those long van rides. Even better than that is knowing after a long day of racing, you have no homework waiting for you.


SpinSheet is a Chesapeake based sailing magazine delivering news about racing, cruising, and daysailing on the Chesapeake Bay.

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