Treat this like a college sailing race

Published on March 18th, 2020

Nicholas Baird

Nicholas Baird, 2019 College Sailor of the Year and now a coach at Stanford, has a message for the college sailing athletes that now find themselves without their sport:


It’s a sad situation to have to cancel a season of sport. It means cancelling months of learning, forming memories, competing, and socializing. While we all know it had to be done, as every major sporting organization has cancelled or postponed their seasons as well, that doesn’t make anyone feel much better about the sudden end to their favorite collegiate activity.

My heart goes out, especially to the seniors, who won’t have a chance to combine all that they have learned into one final push at the National Championship, nor be able to share that experience with the many friends they’ve made over four years. While I lament for the experiences now gone, I also hope that college sailors can find a way to make this experience a positive one.

My college sailing experience taught me two lessons that I hope can guide those feeling empty without weekly practice and regattas.

The first of which is to always objectively assess the situation. We love sailing because of its two major challenges: the environment and the other sailors on the course. Both have the same, important quality. They are uncontrollable.

Though we might beg the wind to shift in our direction, or ask to cross a competitor, we can’t control the lefty coming from the banks of the Charles River, or the starboard boat responding “no, tack.” Frustrating as these situations are, the accumulation of many over time have made sailors adept at making the best of an uncontrollable situation.

We are experts in knowing where we want to get to and navigating the obstacles in our way. But often our emotions can keep us from making the best decision to move forward, even if our mind logically knows the right answer. In my experience, the best college sailors were able to look at their current situation (regardless of out they got there), find the optimal way to find success from that point, and execute.

In light of COVID-19, while college sailors no longer have the chance to test themselves throughout the season or at the Nationals, they do have the chance to test themselves against the situation they find themselves in, and apply the same skills they’ve learned in college sailing to a real world challenge. At the end of the day, that’s why we all compete in sports, to become better at life.

The second lesson is the significance of relationships. College sailing brought me some of my best friends and teammates, but also rivals and challenging personalities. Even though we are without the ability to see our friends, and rivals, each weekend, let’s not forget the importance of those relationships.

Check in with your friends, even if just for a brief joke (or sending a meme). Then, just as we do each year after the Nationals, when this is all over, we can go out together and share our stories from the experience we all shared.

This is a tough time, but it is also an opportunity. Let’s treat it like a college sailing race – objectively assess the situation and execute. When it’s all over, we’ll get back to doing what we always do, sailing and having fun together.


National Championships for Women’s, Coed, and Team Racing had been planned for May 26 to June 5 in New Orleans, LA. www.collegesailing.org

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