46°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Sailing to the Forefront

When Eliza Wilson first came to UMB in the spring of 2003, she found no active agenda for sailors. The 22-year-old taught sailing over the summer at UMass Boston in the sailing program run by Marine Operations and saw that there was interest among students. And so she and a couple of like-minded buddies created the Sailing Club, an organization dedicated to the delightful pursuits of the water. “Student sailors should be recognized on campus,” Wilson commented.

At the behest of Wilson, the Sailing Club became a member of the New England Interscholastic Sailing Association (NEISA), which allows the organization to compete with the likes of Harvard, Boston College, and Tufts.

“There are good sailing waters [around Dorchester Bay] and [the club] provides an excellent opportunity to compete. Also, it’s a great way to promote UMB.”

The Sailing Club is continually on the lookout for new members. Wilson thought that an off-campus location was an attractive option for recruiting interested students. The Sailing Club has posted flyers around campus inviting the curious to join the organization at the Banshee, an Irish pub on Dorchester Avenue that is a five-minute walk from the JFK T stop, on Thursday evenings for some sailing talk, beers, and for the musically courageous, karaoke.

The initiative has worked out well. Dozens of students have stopped by and some have inquired about the Sailing Club. Wilson hopes that this will continue in the future and she continues to receive support from the community.

“Introducing potential members to the club at the Banshee is the first step. Then, hopefully, the interested student will join. It’ll play out over time. The Banshee and the Savin Hill Civic Association have really been helpful with their support.”

Ethan Sewell, a community liaison between Harbor Point and UMB, agrees that the Sailing Club has taken off. “[The club] has generated a lot of interest and excitement. And it should. It’s an incredible opportunity. I mean, the water is right here.”

According to Wilson, a sailing club existed on campus some 5-10 years ago, but it dissolved. Here is where Marine Operations enters the water. Wilson feels a relationship with an established department on campus will greatly enhance the Sailing Club’s chance of survival.

“I’m looking forward to working with Marine Operations to ensure a solid future for sailing at UMB,” said Wilson. “I want this organization to thrive well after I’m gone and be a part of the New England sailing collegiate scene.”

Wilson is no landlubber. She sailed on a four-member team at the University of Rhode Island. Her team enjoyed considerable success, ranking as high as 15th in the nation in a collegiate sport that does not have NCAA divisions. She came here with some expectations of continuing her maritime lifestyle but instead found little in the way of nautical activities.

“With the location and resources that exist here, I am surprised that sailing isn’t in the forefront,” she said. “But I believe that it can be done. I want to show people that we can be successful, that we can emulate Harvard and MIT. We should be able to hold regattas and accommodate sailors here at UMB.”

Sailing Club Secretary Jennifer O’Halloran credits the Sailing Club for giving her a sense of involvement.

“I came from UMass Amherst, which was too big a school for me. I was looking for something to participate in, and the Sailing Club allowed me to do that. Plus, it has expanded my social interactions in other areas.”

The club currently uses 1973 Cape Cod Mercuries. They’re adequate vessels, but Wilson has her eyes set on sleeker crafts. She is hoping to acquire high-performance racing dinghies so that sailing club members can be competitive with racers from other schools.

Money, however, is another matter. Funds are limited and fundraising is a lot of work. That’s why Wilson believes a sailing coach is crucial for the future.

“I want a coach who will help with the three Rs: recruitment, reputation, and revenue. UMB needs one for sailing to [enjoy] long-term success here.”

But until a coach is spotted off the port bow and reeled in, Wilson heads the initiative. She credits Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Keith Motley with inspiration.

“He has said over and over again, ‘Own the process.’ I completely agree with him. If I want this initiative to succeed and take root here at UMB so that it doesn’t dissolve after current members depart, then it’s up to me. Having control over this is empowering and it’s a confidence builder.”

Wilson appreciates the solidarity that other student athletes on campus have expressed. Such encouragement bolsters morale, especially when difficulties arise.

“Jon Tekela of the baseball team and Ryann Gold of the softball team are big supporters of our efforts. They, as well as others, recognize that sailing is a sport and should be acknowledged as such. It means a lot to us.”

Prospects are bright at the moment, but Wilson knows she can’t slack in her efforts, and promises to finish what she has started.

“I won’t walk away from something I believe in. Even after I graduate from this I’ll still be checking in.”

For more information, visit the Sailing Club in the new Campus Center on the third floor (3100.18). For information about sailing lessons, contact Marine Operations.