While many Rice students are recovering from sleepless Friday nights, members of the Rice sailing club spend their Saturday mornings cutting through the water, racing boats out of Lakewood Yacht Club. Founded in 1963, the team competes in regattas throughout the year against schools such at the Oklahoma State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder. According to club president Amy Fox, the club is one of the closest groups on campus.
“Not many people know we are a club sport,” Fox said. “We’re a family and a community. Everyone likes to be out on the water together.”
The sailing club practices about 45 minutes away from Rice’s campus. Team members sail in Flying Juniors, the same 13-foot long boats used by college and high school sailing programs across the country. On each boat, there are two team members. One person, the skipper, is the equivalent of the captain of the boat. He or she controls the boat and directs the other person, the crew, throughout the race. The crew is an assistant to the skipper, helping to sail the boat according to the skipper’s instructions. Club member Kevin Li said that his goal this year is to train to become a skipper.
“Skipper is the harder position,” Li said. “I want to work to learn how to take on the more authoritative role.”
One of the major factors in sailing is wind. On a day with little wind, boats go slowly and races run at relatively leisurely paces. Fox recounted the story of a day with little wind during which competitors swam to other teams’ boats and tried to tip them over instead of racing. On a windy day, however, boats often capsize and sailors are thrown overboard. Despite the threat of taking a swim, Li said that he prefers extremely windy days.
“It’s really fun at first when there’s a lot of wind,” Li said. “When there’s a lot of wind, the boat tends to keel close to the water. You can even have water come into the boat; it’s really cool.”
The club is always looking for new members. The main way the organization gains new members is through the club fair and by word of mouth. At the beginning of the year, over 20 people came to the first practice, but Fox said she expects that fewer club members to show up as classes become more rigorous.
Before joining the sailing club at Rice, Fox had not sailed in more than five years. Li had never sailed in his life before joining the team. According to Fox, sailing is a perfect sport for people who are looking to try something new.
“You learn pretty quickly,” Fox said. “Once you get the hang of it, it’s super fun to get out on the water and it’s very relaxing.”
This weekend, the Rice sailing club will compete in its first regatta of the year. The club will travel to face Texas A&M University, Galveston in the races. Despite the upcoming competition, Fox said the sailing club is as much about winning as it is about fun.
“There are definitely people on the team who are more competition-focused, but I am more of a fan of just getting out there and sailing,” Fox said. “I like getting out on the water, so for me it’s more of a fun activity than a competition.”
Li echoed Fox’s sentiment. He said that the sailing club is a great way for him to escape the rigor of classes and homework.
“After all the stress of the week, most people feel like the water calms them,” Li said. “It’s a really enjoyable experience.”
After competing this weekend, the sailing club will host its first regatta on the weekend of Oct. 1. Schools from as far away as Colorado will come to compete in the races. Any student wishing to support the club can drive to Lakewood Yacht Club to watch the competition.