UCI Sailing Full Speed Ahead

Winning the Sloop Pacific Coast Championships the first weekend of October, UCI Club Sailing Team vindicated itself as a sport to be recognized, whether or not budget cuts allow it. After a long summer, the now discontinued sailing team proved that they are going to continue to dominate.

Placing second, getting a bye, and then placing first, second, fourth and second in the races prior, it all came down to Sunday’s race at the Richmond Yacht Club in San Francisco. If UCI didn’t race well today, they would not be moving on to the nationals.

Sunday Oct. 4 called for gale force winds, which are 39-46 mph winds. With their final race at the Sloop Pacific Coast Championships, beating out the main competition, University of Southern California and University of Hawaii, meant everything to the team. This win would mean qualifying for nationals and letting the sailing world know that UCI is still a force to be recognized and reckoned with.

Starting fourth in the line of seven teams, Brian Hoover, Frank O’Brien, Ashley Hobson and Ryan Moore managed to take the lead. As other teams fell back, UCI soared ahead.

“It was like we had our own wind,” O’Brien said, flashing a smile.

With a substantial lead ahead of both main competitors, the team decided to play defensively by sticking close to competitor UH. Keeping one step ahead of UH at all times meant having one less team to worry about. Concerns about USC quickly dissipated as their team fell back, ultimately placing in fifth.

Finishing second, UCI’s overall score qualified them for nationals. Because UCI’s team had the overall best accumulative score, they were awarded first overall for the day.

Describing the triumph as “surreal,” O’Brien and his team members accomplished a pretty difficult feat that didn’t seem so attainable before. Despite the drastic changes caused by budget cuts, the team still pulled together and beat out all other competitors. It was the most promising victory statement: the sailing team would go on.

Although UCI’s Club Sailing Team swooped at the Sloop Championships, this was not the main story — it is the road that got them there. As of Aug. 1, sailing, in addition to three other athletic programs, were discontinued from UCI’s varsity sports. The sailing team had a hard choice to make: would they try to raise funds, go “club” or disintegrate the team?

Historically, UCI’s sailing team has won five national championships and boasted 19 All-Americans — a feat most other sports teams on campus are not even close to. As one of the most successful sports programs at UCI, sailing knew that giving up the team was impossible.

However, even more impossible was the amount of money required for sailing to remain a varsity sport on campus: roughly $250,000. With a little less than two months to raise the money, the sailing team opted for a third alternative. Braving budget cuts and the lack of school funding, the sailing team made a decision to become a club sport.

Admittedly, going “club” meant losing funding and going without “soft costs,” which had previously helped athletes with earlier registration, excused absences from class and access to the athletic department’s equipment. However, for the sailing team, this proved to be a minor issue. With attitudes like champions, they continued on.

Even with the drastic changes August brought, the team continued to practice and worked hard to prove that they were very much still alive and still sailing.

“You cut the most successful team on campus,” O’Brien said. “Well, let’s prove that we’re not dead, you know?”

Sailing’s ultimate goal is to be officially reinstated to the athletics’ department, but for now, they’re just trying to prove themselves to be just as capable, if not more capable than ever.

“I’d just like [UCI] to know that we’re still a team, still a contender,” O’Brien said.

With a championship now under their buckle, they’re proving just that. UCI’s Club Sailing Team will go on to nationals in New London, Connecticut at the Coastguard Academy two weeks from now. Show your support by visiting their Web site at AnteaterSailing.com.