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Rice sailing club sets sails for competitions


Ahitagni Das / Thresher

By Viola Hsia     3/26/24 10:43pm

The Rice Sailing Team placed third in the St. Francis Invitational Regatta in San Francisco March 10. The race lasted two days, from March 9 to 10. According to Rice Sailing Club President Manning Unger, Rice represented one of the nine teams present, which also included University of California, Davis, University of California, Berkeley and California Polytechnic Institute.

Unger, a junior from McMurtry College, said the sailors initially weren’t expecting much out of the race, as most of their Californian competition belonged to more competitive districts.

“The Pacific Coast Sailing Conference is generally much, much stronger than the Southeast Intercollegiate Sailing Association, which is our local regional district,” Unger said. “So we weren’t expecting much.”

Unger said that the team had mixed results on the first day of the regatta, but that the key to the team’s success was figuring out how to navigate the area under the Golden Gate Bridge, which had a strong and tricky current.

“The Golden Gate is the entry point from San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. So all of the water from the ocean, when the tides change, have to flow out of this one narrow strait, meaning that it has the strongest current that I’ve ever personally sailed in my life,” Unger said.

Ricky Miller, RSC vice president, said the team picked up a lot of strategy on the first day of the regatta, which helped lead them to the eventual victory.

“We kind of went in not really knowing what to expect; we’ve never gone against any of these teams,” Miller, a Lovett College sophomore, said. “We were able to learn on the first day and then come back the second day and perform a lot stronger. After the first day, we were sixth [place], and then we made our way up to third by the second day.”

RSC sponsor Anne Smith said she was proud of the team’s victory, given the tricky conditions.

“Sailing is extremely hard — competing with mother nature every minute of every race and winning is a great feeling for all our sailors,” Smith wrote in an email to the Thresher. “I am so happy for our team to have done so well!”

When RSC treasurer Leo Marek joined the club last year, the team hadn’t sailed competitively in four years. Since then, he said the team has attended nine competitions this year and hopes to host competitions next year.

“Finishing third was sort of a big statement for us and allowed us to go to the league and really say, ‘Look … we can be among the best,’” Marek, a Duncan College sophomore, said. “Seeing some success out of [our] conference is great, and I can't wait for what the future holds after that.”

Will Rice College freshman Ahitagni Das said he had never sailed before until this past fall. Despite his lack of experience, he said he learned a lot during his time on the team.

“My first race, I didn't know what side to jump on, what side to switch the sails to. It's actually not as tricky, given it was my first time,” Das said. “The officers of the sailing team, they're extremely good instructors. I was able to pick it up pretty fast, and I gradually got better at it. I'm much more excited about going to regattas because I know what's going on.”

Taylor Griffeth, a Jones College junior, also just started sailing last year. He said that improvement within the team has been swift.

“I think as a team and myself personally, we've been improving a lot,” Griffeth said. “I had to remember that one of the teams was standing there on the dock, and they said something along the lines of ‘Who the hell's this Rice team?’ I would like to keep pushing up the level, keep getting reactions like that and continue to do our best to get better placements overall.”

Editor’s note: Ahitagni Das is a photographer for the Thresher.

[3/26/2024 11:51 p.m. The article was updated to to reflect the correct last names for Taylor Griffeth and Leo Marek.]

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