Sailing through university

Dalhousie Sailing Club is open to newcomers and experienced racers

Knowing how to sail is not the main priority for a new recruit of the Dalhousie Sailing Club. Instead, enthusiasm and a bit of dedication go a long way in being able to participate. 

The team is open to students who have never been out in a boat before, as well as those who are already comfortable out on the water and have previous competition and racing experience.   

“It’s such a good way to relieve stress after having a long week. You can just get out on the water and you don’t have to worry about any assignments, responding to emails or checking your phone,” says Nicole Torrie, treasurer of the team. “No one can contact you; you’re just out [there] and it’s a really good feeling.” 

Options for newcomers 

There are two divisions of the club: the recreational team and the competitive team. The first is a more casual introduction to sailing. It is a controlled environment where students get the chance to try out sailing during a series of five two-hour sessions spread out over several weekends. The fee to participate is $150 for the season. 

The competitive team, further divided into competitive dinghy and competitive keelboat sections, is racing-oriented and more of a commitment for students. They meet every Thursday and Friday night from 4 p.m. until sunset. Depending on the time of the season and when sunset falls, students on this team have longer practices and more time to run through drills and racing while getting used to the boats. 

The competitive team fee is $275 for the season, but up to $50 can be earned back by participating in the society’s volunteer opportunities. This could be helping with fundraising and bake sales or doing hands-on work like boat repairs. 

In this image: Kat Walker and Sierra Fahrman competing in the McGill University Invitational Regatta.
Kat Walker and Sierra Fahrman, members of the competitive dinghy team, competed in the McGill University Invitational Regatta. Photo by Kevin Fahrman; Foreside Photography

Racing in regattas   

Students on the competitive team also have the opportunity to participate in weekend regattas, where groups race against other universities for national ranking. 

Emily Walter, a fourth-year student, joined the competitive team in her first year. With previous sailing experience since the age of 10, it was a good fit, but she was not interested in racing with the Dal team at first. 

“My sister and I actually hated sailing when we were younger because we were terrified, but then we started to love it,” Walter says. “I just like to get out on the water and have fun.”  

Walter says the community aspect of the team is strong because its member involvement and bonding go beyond their time spent out on the water together. 

This September, she competed in her first regatta, the Maritime University Sailing Championship in Chester. Racing on a team with Torrie, the pair won the competition. 

Dal’s team attracts a range of students and consequently is a place to meet new faces. This is one of Torrie’s favourite parts, “getting to know a lot of people, as a lot of sailors come from all over the place,” she says. “We have people from the States, a lot from Ontario, and all over the Maritimes. It’s so interesting to see the connections that people make.” 

Their final regatta of the season is the Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association (CICSA) Fleet Racing Nationals, hosted by the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. In preparation for the competition on Oct. 26-27, the competitive team has been practicing with their racing pairs, and practices have been focused on mock-races rather than drills. 

The Dal Sailing Team is also looking into options of moving to a new yacht club. This would help to expand their team membership, get access to more equipment and to increase their number of weekly practices. This year, there are about 20 members on the recreational team and close to 30 on the competitive team. 

The team’s season runs from early September to the middle of November, depending on the weather. 

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Darcey Neale

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