Northwestern University Sailing Team sets sail for spring season


Photo courtesy of Joshua Sukoff / Northwestern University

The Northwestern Sailing Team has competed all across the country, from Wisconsin to Texas

Aliya Bekshenova, Reporter

The Northwestern Sailing Team returned to the water this Spring Quarter in preparation for regattas across the country.

From April 14 through April 16, 7 sailors competed in the co-ed Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association national qualifiers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although the team came up short of a bid for nationals, it finished sixth in open fleet racing and fourth in open team racing event. The team is open to students of all levels — new sailors and tough competitors alike.

McCormick sophomore and co-recruitment chair Rebeca Lion competed in the qualifiers and said she enjoyed catching up with friendly faces from competing teams. 

Before arriving on the shores of Lake Michigan, Lion sailed casually at the yacht club in her hometown São Paulo, Brazil. But a month after joining the team her freshman year, Lion began competing in nationwide regattas. 

She said she appreciates how open NUST is to new students.

“Bringing an amazing sport to the people that might not have had the opportunity to experience it before is the best part,” Lion said.

Around 30 freshmen and transfer sophomores joined the ranks during Fall Quarter recruitment. Half of them held no prior experience, McCormick freshman George Warfel said, while the other half had sailed recreationally or competitively before. 

The ability to sail on Lake Michigan appealed to Warfel during his college admissions process. For Warfel, being part of the team transcends the act of playing a sport.

“NUST is my home away from home,” Warfel said. “I met some of my closest friends, (and) it has played a huge role in helping me find a community of great people who share the same interest as me.” 

Like Warfel, Lion said NUST members have shaped college experience and “quite literally changed (her) life.”

Warfel said the team typically grows close because of the major time commitment required. Being an active member involves 3 hours of training on the water 4 times a week, weekly meetings and cross-country travel for regattas, he said. 

During Winter Quarter, Warfel said the team still meets, even though the weather on the lake may not permit going out on the water. 

Warfel recalled holding weekly “chalk talk” meetings in the winter and discussing strategies for the upcoming spring season and occasional winter regattas. Even when Lake Michigan is too cold for sailing, he said he’s competed in warmer states, including the Harris Kempner Memorial Regatta in Galveston, Texas.

As he prepared to take off for the George Morris Trophy regatta in Boston this weekend, Warfel said he loves being able to continue with his passion for sailing at the collegiate level. 

“When I’m on the water with friends, all the stress from classes just gets swept away,” Warfel said. “It’s a feeling of pure exhilaration, and it makes me have a better day.” 

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