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NEWS PHOTOS * Francisco Kjolseth
Members of the U-M Sailing Club gather every
weekend at Baseline Lake. Above, David van
Campenhout rigs a sail before setting out. Below, a
pair of club members practice knots. The club is
open to just about anyone who can swim 50 yards.
U-M Sailing Club offers lessons, races
By Amy Barnes
NEWS SPECIAL WRITER
It's a warm, sunny morning at Baseline
Lake north of Dexter. Several small sailboats
cut through the water, weaving in and out of
each other's paths. About 20 people are
standing at the end of the University of
Michigan Sailing Club's dock waiting their
I've donned some old clothes and sneakers,
ready to exchange my land legs for sea and
try sailing for the first time.
With instructor Bill Simpson at the helm,
I learn the art of tacking, or coming about
("a maneuver for changing from a starboard to
port tack or vice versa"). The boat picks up
speed and we quickly head out onto the lake.
When I master changing jib sheets and
trimming the job, Simpson hands over the
helm. My mind reels with sailing jargon and
before I get the hang of steering the boat,
it capsizes and I plunge into the water. The
boat "turtles" (turns over so that the
mainsail is completely under water) and I
climb up on its belly and wait for the safety
boat. I look up at Simpson standing on the
boat. He is dry.
"Once you capsize, you're well on your way to
the learning curve," says Stephanie Schneiderman,
vice commodore of the club. In fact, knowing how to
capsize is one of the nine required skills club
members check when "rating" new members (approving
them to use club sailboats alone).
"The worst thing that will happen is you go in
the water," says Simpson, an engineer and long-time
sailor. "Safety boats are ready at all times."
Established in 1938, the University of Michigan
Sailing Club is run as a cooperative, and anyone
interested in sailing is welcome to join.
Membership is contingent only upon a person's
ability to swim 50 yards. All instructors are
volunteers, and the 250 to 300 members mow the
lawn, repair the docks and maintain the boats and
Safety is a top priority for club members. All
boats must be sailed within sight of the dock and
safety crews are ready and waiting at all times.
Also, no boat may be sailed without a rated
Ratings run from "elementary" (crew rating) up
to "skipper". At the most basic level, members are
tested on points including mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation, knots, rigging, sailing and
The skipper rating, according to the club's
guidebook, "The Michigan Sailor," represents a
level of "small boat seamanship," at which "a
skipper can handle boats in heavy air and is
familiar with the weather." A skipper also is
"expected to show responsibility for all club
operations under any conditions and to make
"(Sailing) is one of the safest sports I've
seen," said Kevin Bosley, commodore and eight-year
member of the club. "We deliberately try to teach
the basics... We're here to build a foundation (of
sailing skills) people can build on and take with
Building that foundation begins on Saturday
mornings. The club offers instruction from 9 am to
1 pm, and lessons include shoreside lectures and
individual lessons on a sailboat or sailboard.
In addition to hands-on instruction, the Sailing
Club also provides weekly lectures on topics such
as "Right of Way Rules," and "Start Tactics," among
Members can put their skills to the test on
Sundays in the intra-club races. Held from 10 am to
2 pm, sailors holding the intermediate helm rating
or higher race each other several times to clinch
the title of best sailor for that week. One race is
usually reserved for those with the basic crew
rating so they can develop basic racing skills.
Intercollegiate racing in the Midwest Collegiate
Sailing Association is open to the best
undergraduate sailors. Michigan hosts approximately
eight to ten regattas, and each year a memorial
regatta is held for the Robert Carey/Allen Price
Memorial Bowl, given in memory of a club commodore
and racing chairman who died in 1958.
Open sailing is held on Sundays too, as well as
most every evening during the week and after 1 pm
on Saturdays. Members also can sail after dark,
usually on Friday and Saturday nights. Boats are
available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The university-recognized student organization
receives no funding from the U-M. Members pay dues,
and the club saves one-third of its revenue each
year. Among other things, this frugality has
allowed the club to build a new boathouse and
upgrade its fleet: 14 new sailboats were purchased
this year. The entire fleet includes fifteen
International 470s, six Lasers, four beginner
sailboards and three intermediate/advanced
In addition to sailing, the club organizes
picnics on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and
Labor Day. They are held on the club's property on
Baseline Lake north of Hudson Hills Metropark.
If you're interested in learning how to sail,
you can show up at the club's dock on a Saturday
morning and put your name on the list for lessons.
Wear clothing to suit the weather - and remember
that it might be significantly cooler on the water.
In cool weather, wool retains its insulating
properties when wet; windy weather should prompt
you to wear rain pants and coat. Wetsuits are often
worn in late fall or early spring. Be sure to wear
soft-sole shoes and clothes that can get wet, and
take a towel, a change of clothes, a lunch and soft
drinks (alcohol is prohibited, as are pets.)
The club is in need of instructors, so you may
have to wait a while for a lesson - which is a good
time to meet people and share your anxieties over
capsizing. The "terminally informal" club, as Kevin
Bosley puts it, is a relaxed, encouraging place to
learn to sail. The worst thing that can happen is
that you'll get wet. But, you'll likely have a
great time doing it.
The University of Michigan Sailing Club is
located at 8010 Strawberry Lake Road north of
Dexter on Baseline Lake. Membership dues for spring
and summer are $55 for students and $95 for
non-students and include all instruction, use of
boats, boards and facilities. Annual family
memberships are also available. There is no charge
for children accompanying adults. Weekly lectures
are held at 7:45pm on Thursdays in room 120 of the
Dennison building on the University of Michigan
central campus. For more information, or specific
directions, call the club at 426-4299 or Kevin
Bosley at 426-0920.
The Ann Arbor News