College Sailing: Study abroad, sort of

Published on April 21st, 2014

Every weekend during the fall and spring, members of the Drexel University Sailing Team pile into their cars and head to competitions up and down the East Coast, from Connecticut to Virginia. It’s a lot of travel, but that’s nothing compared to the team’s next trip.

Later this week, the squad from the Philadelphia, PA campus will be off to Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, to compete in the world’s largest intercollegiate sailing event, the 46th EDHEC Sailing Cup.

The EDHEC Sailing Cup on April 25 to May 3, 2014 is the biggest intercollegiate offshore regatta in the world. The USA will be the most represented foreign country with five teams. Drexel University will be joined by University of Chicago, Tufts (2 teams) and Georgetown. Canada will have two teams: University of Laval and HEC Montréal.

To get there, Drexel team members had to take first place in their class in the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta in Larchmont, N.Y., the biggest such competition in the United States, and also raise $30,000 for travel expenses. For their trouble, they’ll be the first-ever Drexel club sports team to compete abroad.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Elizabeth Jarvie, a freshman team member making the trip.

At last year’s EDHEC event, about 3,000 students from 24 countries around the world raced aboard 180 boats. For the eight students making the trip, it will be a solid week of sailing with the best collegiate competitors in the world.

For senior Jakub Tyczynski, who will be the crew’s captain, it will be the highlight of his Drexel sailing experience.

“You’re tired after work or after class, and you’re getting on the water, and sometimes it’s cold and it’s raining and it’s miserable,” Tyczynski said. “But you forget about that stuff when you get into the boat.”

Tyczynski, an international student from Krakow, Poland, has been an avid sailor for about 12 years, even leading crews on several boats around Europe. Drexel’s sailing club was a big reason he chose to come to the University. But the other members of the team – about 15 participate regularly – have a range of previous sailing experience. They have a range of majors, too – Tyczynski studies finance, Jarvie majors in biology and other team members are in the College of Engineering and the College of Computing & Informatics.

Tyczynski and several other students in the LeBow College of Business approached Drexel leaders with a presentation that resembled a business pitch to potential investors, emphasizing that Drexel’s name and logo would be displayed in several prominent places on their boat at an event with representatives from universities around the world.

The team successfully raised $15,000 from several Drexel offices, and outside sponsors and donors, along with a matching contribution from President John Fry to meet their $30,000 goal.

The team, which normally competes in two-person teams aboard 13-foot boats, will form one eight-person crew in a 26-foot boat for the competition. That will work well for the team, Jarvie said, because the repeated eight-hour sailing sessions they’ve gone through together have made them close over the course of the year.

“You’re still bonding with your teammates out on the water, even when you’re racing,” Jarvie said.

For the tight-knit group, the feeling of being out on the water is like nothing else, Tyczynski said. And thanks to their work, they’ll get to experience it for a solid week in a new part of the world.

“You get on the water,” Tyczynski said, “and you just don’t think about anything else.”


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