Life here at the Coast Guard Academy is stressful, and that’s putting it mildly. It’s kind of like a tug-of-war, only instead of just two sides, there are like twenty, all pulling on you and competing for your most precious commodity: your time. One of the best escapes we have from the everyday grind is our sports program. In my case, that would be the Varsity Offshore Sailing Team.
Before I came to the Academy, I had never sailed a day in my life. When I saw the fantastic facilities and equipment the sailing programs had, I knew I wanted to give it a shot. Fortunately, during Swab Summer, everyone learns some sailing basics. It can be kind of nerve-racking, since they give you some basics and then put you in a boat and say, “go!” I wasn’t particularly good at it (lots of capsizing), but I enjoyed being on the water.
Toward the end of Swab Summer, you’re afforded the opportunity to go to what is called coach’s time. It’s kind of like a sample of each sport. I decided to go to the Offshore Sailing Team coach’s time. My rationale was that they sailed bigger boats than the Intercollegiate Dinghy Team, so I could sail with a lot of upperclassmen and learn from them.
Nearly four years later, I look back on this as one of the best decisions I made at the Academy and in life in general. I’ve raced in Annapolis. I’ve raced in Los Angeles. I’ve raced all the way from Newport to Bermuda. I’ve been to some of the nicest yacht clubs in the world. I’ve met some of the best sailors in the world, including Olympians and America’s Cup winners. My membership on the team has allowed me to do so many things that I otherwise would not have gotten the opportunity to do.
As you can probably imagine, sailing can be cost-prohibitive. Boats are expensive. The Coast Guard Academy has a large fleet that you get to use for free! J/70s. Colgate 26s. Leadership 44s. A J/44. And soon a Melges 32. I can’t imagine ever having more access to sailboats than I have right now.
Don’t think the Offshore Sailing Team is a place to take a boat out for a pleasure cruise, however. Four days a week, we’re practicing hard on the Thames River, refining our skills and developing new ones. There’s a new regatta almost every weekend, so we always have to be training. The commitment is big, but the reward is much bigger.
One of my favorite things about the sailing team is how it makes me forget about Academy life. For two hours a day, I’m not a cadet at the Coast Guard Academy, but simply a sailor on the Thames River. And that is how I keep my sanity.
To wrap this up, if you should find yourself coming to the Academy, I would highly encourage you to give Offshore Sailing a try. In every sense of the word, it can take you places.
More about Nick.