Photo courtesy of CSULB Sailing Team. Other photos by Jason Ruiz.
The Cal State Long Beach Sailing Team torpedoed the competition in Xiamen, China last month as they swept their way to victory at the first Pan-Pacific University Sailing Championship.
Over 20 teams from China, Taiwan and Singapore took to the waters in their J-80 vessels the weekend of July 15-17 hoping to take home the gold. However, the squad from Long Beach took the first race of the regatta and never looked back.
“We came out swinging,” team captain Shane Young said of the team’s mindset going into the event. “We came out expecting them all to be top-notch sailors and we had high expectations. We went into the regatta not expecting to win because I think when you do that you kind of shoot yourself in the foot.”Fortunately, the team made the most of the school’s first international regatta by winning all seven races hosted in Wuyuan Bay. Although the team had never sailed those waters, Young attributed their preparedness to the water conditions being nearly identical to the waters of Marina Del Ray where they had practiced leading up to the trip to China.
The team tried to remain grounded as they continued to win races throughout the weekend, but they were finally able to express their happiness after winning the seventh and final race, which left no question as to who was taking home the gold medal.
“When we crossed the finish line and won I just slapped the deck and screamed,” Young said. “It was great. I got the chills. It was just sweet.”
The victory overseas, however, almost didn’t happen.
Pressed for time and funds, Young admitted that it came down to the final week to raise the $12,000 it was going to cost to send the five sailors to China. Donations from the Long Beach Yacht Club, as well as private donors and team parents, combined with the team’s t-shirt sales successfully financed the trip. At a banquet held last Thursday night at the Long Beach Yacht Club to honor the victory, the team dedicated their trophies to the donors to show their appreciation.
“That was one of the bigger accomplishments outside of sailing for our team,” Young said of the fundraising effort. Young goes on to explain that the team regularly struggles just to raise gas money for trips to San Francisco, where they stay at the homes of area Yacht Club members to save money.
Three years ago, the Cal State Long Beach sailing team was a distant memory. The team had history, being ranked as one of best in the nation during a portion of the 1980s, but it had become dormant before Young and a few like-minded students decided to resurrect it. Laura Newton, a former member of the team and co-resuscitator of the team, recalled the growing pains.
First, there was the red tape of starting up a club sport. Then came the recruitment process, home-making of uniforms and driving to competitions with their dinghies strapped to the top of a sedan. Meeting three times a week from 1-4 PM when the team would perfect their craft required a lot of night classes and shuffling of schedules. And when their DIY team finally got on the water, they had to gain the acceptance of much more established teams from around the area.
“You have to have respect on the water,” Newton said as she recalled the first few months of competing with the team. “Some people thought we were this new team that wasn’t going to last so they didn’t really listen when you’d say they were barging [or bumping another team‘s boat], and they’d try to take advantage of you.. But as soon as we started winning the races, they started taking us seriously and knew we weren’t going anywhere.”
As with other sports on campus, teammates will eventually be lost to graduation. Even Young knows that despite watching the team grow from just a few dedicated friends who were determined to bring sailing back to CSULB to the much larger roster they currently have, the team could disappear again if people become complacent. The team is hopeful that the victory in China will help it gain more notoriety with the university, which in turn might increase the amount of support they get, both monetarily and in school spirit.
“Long Beach is one of the greatest sailing venues in the world, Young said. “We have flat water, we have a breakwater, we have constant westerly winds. There’s no reason that CSULB shouldn’t have a team. I just hope that us starting the team really helps sailing grow and progress as a sport.”
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