The Michigan club sailing team has the perfect escape from the rigors of school.
“I look forward, every Tuesday and Thursday, to get out on the water,” Michigan junior and club sailor Alex Bogatko said. “You have school all day, then you get to go sailing.”
Members of the Michigan sailing team travel to Dexter two to three times a week to practice for four hours on Baseline Lake. And though members of the sailing team are fortunate to sail several times per week after a long day of class, the team has had plenty of success.
Michigan is consistently one of the top five teams in the Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association, and part of the reason for the team’s repeated success is its difficult out-of-conference schedule. The MCSA is one of seven sub-conferences in the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association of America, and Michigan often travels east to compete against top teams like Harvard, Yale and Saint Mary’s.
“When you go out east it’s a different story, because they’re all varsity sports,” Bogatko said. “They have coaches, team meetings and practices every day. These kids are really competitive.”
The 40-man team competes in the MCSA along with 29 other teams from across the country. Each weekend, the team sends six sailors to as many as three regattas while using a variety of dinghys on the water, mostly 420s but also FJ’s and Lasers. With more bodies than spots available, the executive board, which consists of eight of the move devoted Michigan sailors, decides who travels based on the amount of time the sailor has committed to the team and their success in practice. The sailors who commit the most time and energy to the team and best prove themselves in practice will be rewarded by traveling to Nationals.
“How much time you put into it is how much you get out of it,” Bogatko said.
Though the team doesn’t have an official recruitment like the varsity teams, competing requires a hefty time commitment. Aside from the eight to 12 hours of practice per week, each weekend, the team travels Friday night for its competition and doesn’t return until Sunday morning.
The fact that the eastern teams recruit their sailors is the reason why Michigan has difficulty matching up with them. So in order to stay competitive on the national level, Michigan challenges itself in regattas against those top teams. The Wolverines made the trip two weekends ago, when they set out to New York to face some of the top teams in the country. Michigan was the lone MCSA team, and its conference dominance didn’t show on the national stage, as Michigan finished last out of the 20 teams.
But regardless of the results against national competition, Bogatko and the rest of the sailors have a good time.
“It still is pretty competitive, but we all have a good time,” Bogatko said. “You get out on the water and you sail all day, but once you get out the water, everyone’s all friends.”