It’s the journey, not the destination

Published on April 9th, 2020

It is not uncommon for College sailing teams in cold climate to travel during spring recess, often heading to Florida to prepare for the upcoming race calendar. That was the plan for perennial powerhouse Yale University, training at the University of South Florida in Tampa, when they learned the COVID-19 pandemic had ended the 2019-20 season.

Chrissie Klingler

Leading the #2 ranked Bulldogs, and a likely candidate for the 2020 Women’s Sailor of the Year, Chrissie Klingler shares the moment:


Among many things in life, sailing taught me (the hard way) how building up a good thing may take incredible patience, work, and dedication, while what feels like its ruin can transpire in a split-second decision.

One OCS or poor finish in the last race can ruin an otherwise top finish (has happened to me… too many times.) Looking the wrong way before a start resulting in a collision can put a crater in a brand-new boat (true story, shout-out to Steve Keen for showing us what duct tape can really do). A pandemic can take the world by storm and abruptly end the season you thought would be the culmination of your college career.

Each one of these feels like a gut-punch, knocking the air out of your lungs.

However, there is a problem with that type of thinking: a sudden misstep or adverse turn may ruin an individual result, but the time invested working hard to be the best you can be at the thing you love to do with the people you love to do it with will not be in vain. If they were, and the end-goal was really the only point, you should ask yourself why you’re really putting in the effort in the first place.

We had the morning off the following day, due to there being no wind and the coaches’ (now ironic) belief that we were getting burned out. That afternoon, we lazily made our way to USF in the sticky Florida heat with no sign of breeze and sat around in circles outside, waiting for some direction to be made.

We had an initial meeting deciding that we needed an afternoon off from team racing, to go off and have fun with some fleet races when the sea breeze filled and boat handling and keep our frustration levels low. No news felt like good news.

While we waited for wind, Zack (Coach Zack Leonard) had some calls to make with other coaches. We laughed at Zack’s seemingly illusionary puff that he pointed out in the harbor and resumed our lounging positions outside. Then the Ivy League released their statement (to cancel the season). I held in tears until Zack got off the phone and confirmed that it was really over.

My team took turns hugging me and the other seniors as we cried. When we collected ourselves, at least temporarily, I booked a new flight to St. Thomas (teammate Graceann’s home, one way ticket) and went out for my final practice as a Yale sailor. (The puff we thought Zack hallucinated did indeed end up filling in).

We did practice, “races” that descended into chaos as boats team-raced each other around the course and a collective decision was made that all the seniors needed to go swimming. I succumbed to the goofiness of it all, allowing myself to be thrown in the water by a pirating first year then going in.

I jumped in one last time with my crew Catherine to put a stamp on our incomplete year of sailing together. I laughed, then cried, then laughed again as my teammates cheered me up then made me realize just how much I was going to miss them.

Those who know me well will agree that I like making and following plans. A teammate (cough, cough Nic Baird) once accusingly called me “efficient” for not wanting to make an hour-long detour to the Chick-fil-A in Mohegan Sun on the way to Bowdoin.

I learned to adopt the mentality that I will get the outcomes I want if I put in the work and everything did seem to be going in the right direction. However, the outbreak of coronavirus in the United States was an outlier event that all my efficient planning did not take into account.

The announcement ending the season crushed me. I was coming into the spring after the best fall season of fleet racing I could have hoped for and a shot at being on the starting team race team come Nationals. Not only a spot, but a spot on a team that I trusted and loved to sail with, a team that I could see being in contention to win again.

Then one day it was announced that classes were moving online. Then the next day the season was cancelled. In my vanity, I miss the lost dream of what I could have done with my last season of college sailing, who I could have become. All I can do now is accept what I have done, who I am now, and find a new dream to chase.

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