Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Break Training Trip

Twenty Michigan sailors decided to forgo the traditional college spring break trip and instead spend the week sailing FJs at the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club in Norfolk, Va.

Team members arrived between 9 PM and 4 AM at the home of co-captain Tom Etheridge on Sunday night, just in time to watch the end of the Oscars. After an exhausting day of driving, team members were quick to fall asleep, stomachs full of delicious brownies prepared by Mrs. Etheridge.

The team evidently brought Michigan's winter weather with them, as the temperature dropped from seventy on Sunday to below freezing Monday.  The hail and snow made it impossible to sail, so sailors spent the day catching up on homework and listening to captains give chalk talks on tactics for crewing and skippering FJs in heavy winds.

Tuesday we were able to get out on the water at NYCC, which graciously allowed us to use their fleet and facilities. The temperature was cold but spirits were high as many sailors stepped into a boat for the first time since last November.  The day's drills focused on getting those new to sailing FJs comfortable, and pairing veterans with newer sailors to improve skill levels.

Wednesday saw an increase in temperatures with winds between 15 and 25 knots.  Sailors practiced tacking drills, sailing up wind and downwind, starts, and even got a few races in at the end of the day. Freshman sailors showed incredible improvement from the beginning to the end of the day, even beating some of the top skippers in regattas at the end of the day.

The wind picked up dramatically Thursday, with gusts reaching above 30 knots. The sun made an appearance during the morning session and the team got great heavy wind practice, as well as the opportunity to go on reaches longer than the width of Baseline Lake.  Three boats had the opportunity to sail with members of the Old Dominion University team in late morning, and the rest of the team watched on from the coach boat, gaining valuable experience by observation.  After lunch and a brief chalk talk, six brave boats returned to the water to get team racing practice in.  The afternoon saw many capsizes and swamped boats, but the practice was invaluable as the ice on Baseline doesn't look like it will melt any time soon.

The captains decided to send the team home a day early due to a nor'easter, which would have made it impossible to sail, coming through on Friday.

The team is enormously thankful for the hospitality of the Norfolk Yacht and Country Club and Matt Graham, who volunteered a his time to coach us during the duration of the trip. We also owe a huge thank you to Dr. and Mrs. Etheridge, who housed us, fed us, and made sure there was always vegan, lactose free, and gluten free options at meal times, a very difficult task.  The training trip would have been impossible without their generosity and the team is extremely grateful.

Overall, the trip was a great learning opportunity for new team members and a beneficial experience for the more seasoned members of our team, and will surely show its benefits as the spring season picks up and sailors are able to use their newly learned tactics and skills at regattas across the country.