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Contrary to remarks by some cynical and/or envious observers, members of the BU sailing team are not out in the middle of the Charles River to work on their tans. And while coming about on calm waters under sunny fall skies is undoubtedly delightful, the team also practices on frozen March days when there is still ice on the river. It’s a 60-hour-a-week commitment, and strength and endurance play more than a small part.
“College sailing is a much more intense and competitive sport than people might expect,” says team captain Cameron Fraser (CAS’14). Fraser stands on the docks of the BU Sailing Pavilion, a small boathouse under the BU Bridge whose amenities do not include running water or bathrooms. “You’re trying to take advantage of each little thing the wind gives you to win the race.”
The sailing team, which first set sail in 1937, is a club sport with about 25 members. Most team members grew up sailing, but each year the team welcomes a few new members who don’t know the difference between port and starboard. The BU sailors compete annually against 50 schools in their conference, traveling from Vermont to Rhode Island.
The team, whose home waters are the Charles River, between the BU and the Massachusetts Avenue Bridges, has won seven national titles and numerous conference and Atlantic Coast Championships since 1980. Although not a varsity team, the sailors compete at the varsity level with other colleges throughout New England and the country.
New to the team this year is head coach Stan Schreyer (CAS’99) (right), who as a BU senior helped the Terriers win the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) National Championship. He is a professional sailor, who once sailed from New York to Barcelona in 12 days.
Schreyer’s competitive nature is apparent in his two goals for the team: qualify for the ICSA National Championships, being held in Annapolis, Md., next May and June, and earn a spot in the ICSA’s top 10 national sailing programs (currently, the team is unranked). To get there, Schreyer has the team sailing in weekly regattas against such top programs as Boston College, Yale University, and Tufts University.
“I really try to instill in the team that collegiate sailing is team-oriented,” Schreyer says. “We use our three weekly practices to work on things like boat handling, strength training, racing tactics, and understanding wind patterns. Some sailors are really fast, and some are really smart.”
In a recent practice, Schreyer pushes the latter. He drives a small motorboat alongside the fleet of 14-foot Vanguard Flying Juniors (FJs), each flying the scarlet-and-white dual BU sails. Throughout the four-hour practice, Schreyer runs a series of drills and practice races designed to make the sailors proficient at shifting their weight to flip the sail and in turn make the boats go faster.
Another lesson in this afternoon’s session concerns strategy. Team captain Elizabeth Glivinski (CAS’14) compares sailing to chess, because sailors have to predict where their competitor’s boat is headed, and like chess players, they have to think a few moves ahead. “You need to maximize your own speed and know where you are going on the race course,” says Glivinski, who has sailed since she was six. “At the same time, you need to organize yourself in a place where you are in front of other boats.”
When their minds aren’t focused on the next race (or on not falling out of the boat, which can happen), Glivinski and Fraser savor their grand view of Boston from the middle of the Charles. That prospect, says Glivinski, has changed her perspective of the BU campus. “You hear people say that they wish BU’s campus had more of a green feel to it,” she says. “But all they have to do is get out on the water to see that our campus is this beautiful Esplanade and city.”
The Boston University Sailing Pavilion is open to experienced sailors in the BU community and the general public with a Boston University Sailing Card. To purchase a BU Sailing Card, participants must sign a waiver verifying their ability to swim or must take the Boating Swim Test. The Sailing Pavilion also rents kayaks and paddleboards. Find more information here.