The USF Sailing Team’s spring season is set to kick off the second week in February. The team qualified for the national competitions this past fall, winning fourth place in Chicago and second place in San Francisco.
This season the national sailing competitions will be held in Texas. But to get there, the team has to qualify in all of its regional competitions again this season.
The team practices three times a week at USF St. Petersburg to prepare for these competitions.
They can be found Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, sailing on the Bayboro Harbor, right off campus shores, for almost three hours each practice.
There are about 45 people on the sailing team roster. Even though there is a co-ed team and a women’s team, they practice and travel together, representing the entire USF system.
“We consider ourselves one team,” said Coach Gonzalo Crivello. He and Allison Jolly coach the team.
Starting out practice on Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 3:30 p.m., the team and both coaches gathered in the sailing room to go over what they would be practicing that day. With a white board, they mapped out exactly what they were going to do with their sailboats and divided everyone present into teams of two. Tuesday, this meant 12 boats sailing out.
After placing third place last season in districts, they were able to pick what types of competitions they wanted to be a part of this season.
“Since team racing has been kind of a weak thing for us, we picked a lot of team racing events,” said Crivello.
Out on the water, the sailing team practiced the plays that were drawn up on the white board, all listening for constructive criticism from the coaches. From his motorboat, Crivello followed the sailors out on the water, watching their technique. They were practicing teamwork and strategy.
“Why are you so far back, dude!” Crivello yelled, as Jolly blew her whistle across the water from him. The water was smooth due to the light breeze. The clear sky was illuminated by the late afternoon sunshine, with just a few scattered clouds. The usual dolphin was spotted nearby.
What appears to be beautiful weather to most is not so to these sailors. “Such a sour sailor here,” Crivello said, joking about the light wind.
Throwing themselves back and forth on the boat, the sailors used what is called kinetics to get moving across the bay, since the wind was too light to really push their sails. In each boat there is a driver and crew, the driver riding in the back of the boat and the crew in the front. Both are “equally responsible for the performance of the boat,” Crivello said.
Although team members have a variety of skill levels, the coaches do not teach people how to sail.
If someone is interested in joining the sailing team but has no sailing experience, they must take sailing lessons through the Waterfront before they can join the team. Once they learn the basics, the team is there to help them learn the rest. Although sign-ups are at any time, Crivello recommends signing up at the beginning of the academic year in August.
“The sailing team is not exclusive,” said Crivello, stressing that anyone can join.
With 12 weeks total in their season, the team will be traveling almost every weekend for competitions.
Since not all 45 students can travel and compete every weekend, the coaches decide who can go.
They take with them “only the people that have shown they have the skill, the maturity and the commitment to the sailing team that we expect them to have,” Crivello said.
A list of the team’s weekend locations can be found on the sailing team’s website at www.usfsp.edu/sailingteam. The team looks forward to spring break, when they have visitors coming to USF St. Petersburg to practice with the team, from schools such as Brown, Yale and Columbia.
Photos by Daniel Mutter