A new crew: GVSU welcomes sailing club

Addison Amstutz (left) and Nick Smart (right)

Brendan Larrabee

Addison Amstutz (left) and Nick Smart (right)

Kate Nuyen

Grand Valley State University has quite a few clubs, ranging from everything from Quidditch to rugby, but until this past year it didn’t have a sailing team.

It seems almost obvious that the home of the Lakers would have a sailing team, but until Abbey Barnes started looking into starting a team, that wasn’t the case. Barnes, who has been a lifetime sailor, started looking into sailing in college at the beginning of her freshman year.

“In my junior year I started to really hunker down and get serious about starting a sailing team,” she said. “I talked to Eric Garvelink, the club sports coordinator, and he was very supportive in helping us. I am a sailing instructor, so I can teach anyone to sail, it was just finding the people that were interested.”

Barnes is now a senior and, as of Jan. 25, the Midwest Collegiate Sailing Association recognized GVSU as an official team, making the Lakers eligible to compete against other teams in the Midwest.

GVSU alumnus Mitch Padnos started a sailing team 30 years prior, but it fizzled out. The Lakers had a sailing team on and off until the 1990s, the last the sport was active at GVSU until Barnes made it her priority to have the Lakers sailing again.

This season, GVSU had 26 members who pulled out some great finishes at the regattas they competed in. The highest finish was at Purdue University, where the Lakers took third in front of Hope College, who has been competing since the 1980s.

Hope is not only GVSU’s competition, but the Flying Dutchmen are also practicing buddies. GVSU sails at Macatawa Bay Yacht Club in Holland, which is the same place that Dutchmen hold their practices.

“It is sometimes hard having two teams there because we run out of space,” Barnes said. “The nice part though is that, at practice, we have practice races against each other. It helps us as a team to be able to sail against another college on a regular basis. It’s like having our own mini regatta at practice.”

Even though GVSU sailing had a great year, the members are still looking to improve.

Nick Zomer, the public relations coordinator for the team, said their number one focus is spreading the word. Zomer said knowing how to sail is not the most important thing for the new members — it’s all about the desire to learn.

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