UMSC Logo UMSC pictures
UM Logo contact us flags

Our regular hours for open sailing are
10-6 Saturdays & Sundays, 6:30 to sunset Mon-Fri. more info...
Spring Laser Regatta Sun June 15th
Boat school every Saturday 9am-noon.
Racing every Sunday at 10am. and Wednesdays at 6:30pm.

Twitter Button from
Twitter Buttons

You are currently viewing our old website.
Please visit our new website at
[Community Observer masthead]

Merrily the UMSC Rolls Along

Beginners and experts alike take to the water of Baseline Lake.

By Kate Kellogg

Members of the University of Michigan Sailing Club (UMSC) are expected to know just enough sailing jargon to communicate during key maneuvers. "We say we have three basic commands for beginners," says club commodore Kevin Bosley. "They are 'Pull that thing over there'; 'No, the other one'; 'No, that one, dammit!'"

Picturesque and pollutant free, the sailboats of the UMSC quietly dominate Baseline Lake north of Dexter every weekend from late spring through early fall. Now in full sail, the club offers instruction every Saturday morning around 9 on the shore of the lake, a wide stretch of the Huron River. On Sundays, sailboats zigzag around each other for positions at the starting line of the weekly intraclub regatta, which comprises eight fifteen-minute races.

Founded in 1938 by UM naval architecture students, the club takes anyone interested in sailing or learning to sail, with or without a university affiliation - even those who don't know a jib from a jibe. Adventurous beginners are welcome to crew on the race boats, at the risk of getting wet, as more advanced sailors maneuver through challenging courses marked by buoys - the lighter the wind, the smaller the course. Says Bosley, "If a skipper doesn't capsize occasionally during races, it usually means he or she isn't trying hard enough."

Among the expert members are brothers Razvan and Ovidiu Adam, who have won national championships for their native Romania in sailing competitions for the Balkan region. Razvan took first place in the "Optimist" class in 1978, when he was just fifteen years old. Popular among European youth, the Optimist is about seven and a half feet long and barely four feet wide - "really a bathtub with a sail," says Adam. "It fits between the waves on the Black Sea." When he came to Michigan for graduate school, he immediately looked for a sailing group to join, and found the UMSC. Though he's now a practicing psychiatrist in Alma, "my wife and I still drive down to the lake every week so I can race," he says.

Club members range in age from five to sixty-five and represent every continent and every conceivable skill level. The head count varies seasonally, from 115 in the spring to an average peak of 250 by early July. The diverse yet cohesive group is a self-supporting cooperative; besides sailing and the work associated with it, one member says, the group is given to spontaneous pitch-in barbecues.

Everyone is expected to contribute to maintenance of the boats and the club's parklike grounds off Strawberry Lake Road. The site was donated by the university in 1952. Members built the boathouse, complete with woodstove and changing rooms, in 1984.

One of the club's chief attractions is the convenience of having sailboats, just waiting to be rigged and sailed, nearby. "I never could see wasting an hour and a half unloading a boat from a trailer, then tearing it down to reload," club secretary Rick Szumski says. Members have access to a fleet of fourteen two-person dinghy-type JY-15s; four one-person Lasers (smaller and lighter, with a centerboard but no jib); and six sailboards, for windsurfing. All of the boats are purchased with membership dues.

For the privilege of using club boats, members must earn at least a crew rating by demonstrating mastery of fundamentals such as tacking (turning the boat into the wind), hiking (leaning to counteract a tilt), and docking (bringing the boat in, preferably without crashing). Through a series of minitests, members achieve crew, helm, and skipper status as they master skills in safety and repair, tying knots, and maneuvering in progressively heavy winds. People who join the club chiefly to learn are often surprised at how quickly they pick up elementary sailing skills. One member, UM student Akiko Kamimura, was teaching after just four lessons.

Prospective members get two free visits, including lessons. Dues for a seasonal membership (May through September) are $65 for students and $115 for nonstudents; an annual membership is $110 for students and $155 for nonstudents. Weekly club meetings and instructional lectures are held at 7:45 pm Thursdays, May through October, in the Dennison Building on the UM's Central Campus. Kevin Bosley, at (734) 426-0920, has more information. The club's email address is

[Club members sailing]

Photo by J. Adrian Wylie

Summer 2001

©2001 The Community Observer