Creating a Sailor for Life

Published on August 2nd, 2017

Amid a sea of highly trained young sailors, competing in so many of the youth events on the schedule, immerges collegiate sailor Jocelyn Rovniak who participated in none of it. Jocelyn grew up powerboating with her family and had never sailed a boat prior to walking on the Old Dominion University (ODU) campus in Norfolk, Virginia.

But as this report in the August 2017 SpinSheet magazine details, Jocelyn is a prime example of how there are many roads to creating a sailor for life.

Jocelyn Rovniak

During my freshman year at ODU, I was involved in several college intramural sports. Then during my sophomore year I saw a Facebook post that ODU Sailing was looking for athletic young women to try out for their Division I team. I decided to give it a try. I liked the coaches and the sailing, and after just a few days I was offered a spot on the team.

At ODU we sail FJs and 420s. My first year on the team I was really still learning to sail. Sometimes I crewed with the boys’ team just to gain more experience. I learned quickly, and that year we qualified for and went to Nationals. The next year I crewed again, and then last year I was asked to skipper for the women’s B division.

Being in the back of the boat as skipper was a big learning curve. I was no longer just doing what I was told. I had to make the decisions myself. My crew was a walk-on, so she was learning too. Now, when I do go back to the front of the boat, I’m so much more confident. I know what the skipper is expecting me to do, without being asked.

This fall I will be a fifth-year senior, and I’ll have my final year of eligibility. I’m hoping to drive the boat again, but if the team needs me to crew, then I’ll happily go where they need me most.

The sailing community feels smaller than you’d think, and it is very welcoming. If you know one person, almost immediately you know five. Last summer when I went home with a teammate from Michigan, some of her sailing friends invited us to race E Scows in Indiana. We took first place in the regatta, and it was also my first experience sailing with a spinnaker.

Anyone interested in sailing shouldn’t be intimidated. Give it a try, or you will miss a great opportunity. Big boat skippers are always looking for crew. After graduation, I’ll sail anywhere I can get on the water!

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