Creating a sports team from the bottom up is not easy. Just ask Ryan-Sandy Lee, a junior mechanical and aeronautical engineering major who founded the UC Davis Sailing team two years ago.
“We had a bumpy start … but I was either going to start a team or transfer. Sailing is that important to me,” Lee said.
After three years – starting with no money, no coach, and only one boat – Lee and his team have worked their way up. In a recent regatta sailing tournament, the team sailed their way into third place, after Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University. Christopher Hagerman, a junior biological science major and the team’s current vice president of records, is excited for their recent win.
“We’re a newer team and we’re definitely making an impact,” Hagerman said.
From the very beginning, the group had trouble registering as a sailing team. UC Davis Sport Clubs, the group in charge of sport club teams, began a new policy three years ago to no longer accept any more new clubs.
“It was something I think Davis was missing and they had it in the past so I knew it was possible,” Lee said.
Undeterred, Lee and his team successfully registered under the UCD Center for Student Involvement.
But the team still had another wave in front of them to ride; they only had one boat for the entire team.
After convincing Lee’s parents to buy their second boat from Stanford, the only funded sailing program in the region, the team purchased the rest of their boats from University of California, Los Angeles for $25 each.
The sailing team finally caught a break when it came to sails. Lee’s old sailing director in San Diego heard that the Davis team needed sails and called him before throwing out their old ones.
Finally during last spring quarter, the team was coming together. They began holding practices at Washington Lake in Sacramento.
With six sailing boats and 22 active members, the sailing team now includes four officers who are either certified or have previously been paid sailing instructors. Working together, the team is striving ahead despite not having a formal coach.
This absence of a coach, however, is not slowing them down. Instead, they are combining their skills, knowledge and experience to pull ahead of the competition.
Michael Lazzaro, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, joined the sailing team after hearing about it from friends during his first year. Lazzaro was elected the current executive sailing officer during the first few meetings.
“We looked around and asked ‘who knows how to sail here?’ No one else raises their hand and Mike raises his hand and we said ‘okay, Mike’s captain,” Lee said.
Lazzaro now acts as the team’s coach and sailor. Along with Lee, he has experience in many of the sailing venues.
The team is now a part of the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Competition, racing teams from all over California, parts of Oregon and Washington, Arizona State University and University of Hawaii.
But with the costs of entrance fees, transportation and rooming accommodations, the team is having funding problems. They are currently applying for a status as a non-profit organization.
Liz Thom, a junior Animal Science major and Vice President of Public Records, has been leading the team in this effort toward becoming a non-profit.
“We don’t get any money from the school,” Thom said.
Driven by their mutual passion for the sport, the team is now racing their way toward the hopes of making it to the championships in April, located this year in Hawaii.
“Sailing is kind of a zen sport. Its all about being relaxed,” Thom said.
For interested individuals who want to join, Lee says no experience is necessary. But with frequent practices on the weekends, there is a significant amount of dedication.
“It’s for people who want to learn … who are curious. Practice makes permanency,” Lazzaro said.
Lee adds that after the first practice, he can usually tell who will stay and who will continue calling it the “nature of the game.”
“If you’re a sailor, you’re either on the water or not,” Thom said.
JESSY WEI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.