Thursday, November 17, 2011

College Sailing: A Q&A with West Coast Sailors

By Kelly Stannard

This week I sat down with two of my teammates at Roger Williams University from the West Coast and they discussed what it was like growing up sailing in the Pacific. I also picked their brains about the differences between East Coast and West Coast style sailing. Meet Annie Schmidt (Sophomore / San Francisco, Calif.)
and George Saunders (Senior / San Diego, Calif.).

Kelly: What boats did you grow up sailing?

Annie: I grew up sailing El Toros and Bytes. El Toros are like Sabots, but they don’t have a leeboard. They have a centerboard and a Byte which is basically like a smaller laser, both are one person boats.
George: It was typical to grow up sailing Sabots, which have leeboards and are only sailed in Southern California. From there on, you either transitioned into the CFJ to 420, or you took the Laser route and went from Radials to full rigs.

Kelly: Why do you think that you grew up sailing these boats instead of the typical Optis and 420s you see in all of the East Coast Junior Programs?

George: Sabots have always been in Southern California. It’s just sort of the history of the area. They were designed for the light air wind conditions, so they have just stuck.

Kelly: What are the typical conditions you see in Southern California and in Northern California?

George: We have light wind, lots of kelp, able to sail year-round but it’s not always the best conditions. However, we do get those good practice days in January when the East Coast doesn’t, but we also get those drifter days. It has its benefits, but also lacks in year-round breeze.
Annie: In San Francisco there is a lot of heavy air days and cold wetsuit days. In Southern California you don’t usually ever use wetsuits. It was a big difference competing in high school sailing up and down the coast and experiencing the different conditions just in our state. 

Kelly: What has it been like transitioning to East Coast sailing?

For me it’s just the pace of sailing, and it’s definitely faster paced. There is a lot of competition out here and everyone always wants to race where as in sailing out of San Francisco there’s a lower competition. People aren’t as interested in racing, they love sailing just to do it. 
George: My first transition was the purchase of a drysuit. I had never owned one of those before. I feel with the lack of the ability to sail year-round on the East Coast, people definitely take advantage of the times when they can sail. It’s a little bit more like, we’ve only got these few months, let’s make the most of it. Back home it’s a little more laid back. If it’s a good day you’ll go out, but if it’s not you’ll shake it off and you know there is always tomorrow. On the East Coast they take advantage of the moments they can sail and use it to practice more than you see at home.

Kelly: Anything you want to add about what it’s like sailing on the West Coast?

George: It’s more fun; I miss the noon starts for events and the breakfast burritos. Dunkin’ Donuts is not the same.

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