Rock Me Momma Like the Wind and The Rain: The Notre Dame Sailing Team

Imagine cold wind burning your face, water droplets pounding on your back as you hike over the edge of a 420 sailboat into frigid waters, all while maneuvering waves and gliding past opponents. You hit a puff of wind and suddenly, you’re sailing even faster than before. Adrenaline is high and you feel as though nothing in the world can slow you down. Until, “1…2…3…tack!” and oh…why am I not moving anymore? Dead spot. It’s over…you’re behind. Everyone else is finishing and because of one bad tack, life is over for you and your crew.

Okay, so maybe not quite. St. Joe’s lake may not be EXACTLY as intense as described, but for the Notre Dame sailing team, nothing raises our blood pressure more than an afternoon spent at a mock-regatta (practice) on good ole’ St. Joe.

If you ask me, the Notre Dame Sailing team is the hidden gem of the university. Last fall, as a freshman never having sailed before, I looked past the sailing table at activities night because... well, why would anyone join a college sport with no experience, right? Wrong. This is exactly what someone should do. You’re in college, you’re supposed to try new things! The Notre Dame sailing team is the perfect way to do so. You don't have to have any previous experience, the dues are relatively low, and the people will, without a doubt, become some of your greatest friends.

I had always wanted try sailing, ever since my dad sold the family sailboat when we moved from Seattle to Florida. (Like why, right?) Anyways, my high school never had a team (again...weird for FL), I never had the time to try it out, and I just really never thought about it. One evening, sitting at work in Phonathon at Saint Mary's, my friend was talking about the sailing team and from her stories, I knew I wanted to join. She told me to email the captain and as of spring semester of last year, I was on the sailing team! 

Sailing is student-run and student-taught. The captains of the team, Jack Schneider, Mike Flanigan, Annie Schoenwetter, Peter Roehmholdt, Patrick Power, and Becky Jeiger (we’re a big, happy family), all have great experience and are the best unofficial coaches anyone could ask for. Though we had the option of becoming a varsity team and having a real coach, we all agreed that it would be best to stay a club team. That way, a team member can choose when they can come to practice, which regattas they want to attend, and how dedicated they want to be. The sailing team is made up of over 200 members, but about 30-50 who actually compete in regattas, are regulars at practice, and invest some time into the team. The others are in it for the parties. Which we don’t blame you for, really, just pay your dues. 

From the shifts of St. Joe’s random winds that comes along with the luxury of being a part of a team hailing from South Bend, Indiana, we are more than prepared for those crazy winds on Lake Mendota at Wisco. Whether it’s the rain or the snow, if we are signed up for a regatta, we will be there. Dry suits and all, delays or no delays. Cancellations? I guess we have to leave at that point…but it’ll be tough to get rid of us. ND sail doesn’t mess around. We WILL take home those makeshift trophies.

With regattas, come crazy instances. So far, in my two-semester career of being a member of the ND sailing team, I have experienced more petty-tragic experiences than necessary. That one time we walked into the wrong frat house at the Miami of Ohio regatta? (I’m looking at you, Flan.) Or how about the time a few members of our team capsized and STILL got first place? Yeah, that happened. The beauty of being a part of a “club” team is that nothing is organized; therefore, you come up with things on your own.

Translation: when it’s time for a regatta, where you sleep, what you eat, and how you get there is all up to you and your team.

“Family dinners,” snuggle sessions, toga parties, and simultaneously singing “Wagon Wheel” would be how I would define traveling to a regatta. Typically, we would rent a van from the ND car rental company and the best assumed driver would take the wheel. Until we ran over that raccoon and damaged the bumper, so... needless to say, we typically assign someone who has a car to drive nowadays. This seems to be the better option.

The sleeping arrangements are…interesting. Usually, other sailing teams are student-run as well, so the teams will host each other. We will sleep anywhere we are offered, such as the floors of team members’ off-campus houses in Wisco, or a ratchet, empty frat house at Miami of Ohio. (Not preferred). We take what we can get, because when teams come to us, they’re probably sleeping on rickety futons in Sorin and LeMans. All in all, regattas are always the absolute best times and make for the greatest stories. 

 

The Notre Dame sailing team is an awesome time and is not like any other club on campus. The greatest part is that as Saint Mary’s girls, we can be a part of the team and receive co-exes (depending on your dedication, that is). I mean, really, what’s better than some SMC girls at North Dining Hall team dinners?

Due to intense rocking of the boats in the wind and the rain, we accumulate some injuries. From the bruises on our shins, jumping under booms, and pulling sailboats back up to their original positions after capsizes, the strength training and war wounds are just added bonuses. The sailing team is like a small family and whenever I hear “Wagon Wheel” being played somewhere on campus, I look around to see if I’m anywhere at all near a sailing team member. If I’m not, well, I guess that is what Snapchat is for.

Photos provided by author.

Hannah Drinkall is a Saint Mary's College Contributor to Her Campus Notre Dame.

Interested in joinging the ND sailing team? E-mail [email protected] for more information!