College and Sailing: Keeping the ball rolling

Published on April 24th, 2014

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
This week’s Chalk Talk video (Season 10, Episode 5) raises the question of disparity within college sailing. Whereas many sports within college athletics are separated by divisions, which is related to a schools funding of the sport and its general competitiveness, the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) groups all college sailing teams in one category.

But with the competitive balance tilting within the ICSA , it raises the question of whether there should be more than one national championship to reflect the disparity among the school programs.

The cause of this situation is fueled by how the best sailors are drawn toward the highly-funded teams, which are primarily within the New England and Mid-Atlantic areas. For any school not in those regions, and which does not have the funding to travel and compete in those regions, they are at a disadvantage. Thus, it has made it harder for the less-funded teams from other regions to compete on a national level.

While ICSA determines how to keep all its member teams engaged, I will raise the questions of how to keep the sailors engaged.

For those areas where the best young sailors leave their home waters in pursuit of an elite college sailing program, does that have an impact on their home waters? When the foundation of yacht club junior programs is to “make new members”, how many of these young sailors return home after graduation and become members?

And what about racing activity? There should be a connection made between young sailors and the local racing activity. When youth competition and education is completed, this connection should segue to a lifestyle of sailing for this twenty-something sailor. But when the young sailors leave their area for school, does this connection get broken?

Perhaps the solution for yacht clubs and local racing fleets, who are in the vicinity of colleges, is to recruit those students. These are young people who are in the area, and who may stay in the area after graduation. By connecting within them while they are in school, you will create the opportunity for them to segue to a lifestyle of sailing in your area.

Maybe it’s time for the sport to go back to school…

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