With the wind powering their sails through the choppy water, the Cal Poly Sailing Club glided across the finish line at the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference. Back on shore, it was pure elation as Cal Poly’s oldest club sport was headed to the College Sailing/Gill Coed National Championships for the first time in the club’s 62 years of existence.
Video by Sawyer Milam
At the national championship in Old Dominion, Virginia, the team placed 18th overall out of 30 schools.
Even though the team was nowhere near the top of the leaderboard in the championships, their journey to get there was remarkable in it’s own right.
Established in 1956, the sailing club is the oldest Club Sport at Cal Poly.
“Throughout history, we have kind of been up and down, whether we were a club or club sport, so a huge focus started to gain ground in 2012 when the team was shut down for a period of time for paperwork issues,” Sailing Club manager Matthew Susank said. “Since then, we have been working hard to build a legacy that’s sustainable for the future.”
The journey to Nationals
Cal Poly sailors raced a competitive regatta in Honolulu, Hawai’i, for the 2018 Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference title April 25 to 28. They competed against 11 other universities with the top four teams advancing to Nationals. Going into the final race, Cal Poly trailed Hawai’i by just three points for the final spot.
Cal Poly finished the regatta with 125 points, just one point ahead of Hawaii, putting the team in fourth place and capturing a spot at the National Championships.
The pairing of senior skipper Grace Carrick and freshman sailor Josselyn Verutti crossed the line together and were enthusiastically greeted at the dock by the entire team.
“I literally ran to the dock to help them pull up their boat with my eyes just sobbing,” sophomore sailor Alyson Crowley said. “I was like, ‘I can’t believe we did it, this is crazy.’”
While the team on the shore already knew the team was headed to nationals, the group in the water had yet to hear the final point tally.
“We finished, crossed the line and we didn’t know exactly what the points were and then when we were sailing in, we saw our teammates rush out onto the pier,” Carrick said. “I just saw them and I knew, it was just overwhelmingly emotional.”
It has been a long road for the sailing team to get this far, but the club’s past efforts are starting to come to fruition. The majority of the team’s competitive sailors are underclassmen, eager to advance their competitive careers. The team also recently upgraded their fleet with nearly a dozen lightly-used dinghies from the Morro Bay Yacht Club.
In addition to supplying the team with new vessels, the yacht club serves as home base for the sailing club and provides them with a place to dock their fleet. The symbiotic relationship between the two organizations is not a new development, as the Morro Bay Yacht Club obtained their current property with the help of the Cal Poly Sailing Club in the late 1960s.
“From where we were four years ago, which was a small recreational group to being one of the top teams on the West Coast, just in the time I’ve been on this team, there’s nothing else I’ve experienced that’s like it,” Sailing Club President Jim Kerman said.
Not only is this the first year Cal Poly has qualified, but it is just the second time a California State University has made it to the national championships.
“I don’t think a lot of those big East Coast schools have seen a team like ours before, we’re really going to go out there and try to make a splash,” Kerman said.
The team is excited to build upon the success of this season and optimistic about the years to come.
“This is still a pretty young team. We are graduating some seniors, but the people on the water are underclassmen, so the future of this team is bright. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re up on the national races again next year,” Kerman said.