AU club sailing faces equipment struggles
For months, the AU club sailing team has boasted all the bells and whistles one would expect from a sports club: custom sweatshirts, stickers with their logo, and even a flag. Everything, that is, except for boats.
Like a baseball team without bats, the club sailing members have tried making do without the one thing they need in order to practice. At the same time, the team has still competed in regattas (boat races) against other schools as part of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association. Schools that host regattas provide boats for all competitors.
Yet for the AU team, sailboats, which can be expensive for a startup group, are crucial for even more than practice: team members say they need the equipment in order to attract recruits.
“We have a lot of people who have interest and people who have sailing experience, but they’re really turned off by the fact that we don’t have boats,” club president sophomore Audrey Milite said.
Danny Anderson, a sophomore and vice-president of the club, agreed.
“We can’t teach sailing without boats,” Anderson said.
However, the team had a solution. Club 420s, one of the two most commonly used collegiate sailing boats, can run up to $8,600. But the team got lucky, finding two used Club 420s costing roughly $600 each from a seller in Buffalo, New York.
“Now they seem kind of on board just because we pushed so much. It’s just frustrating the lengths you have to go to actually get involved in this campus. They should be pushing us to do it, instead of us pushing them.” -Audrey Milite
“We were able to get a very good deal on these two boats (which are in good condition for our purposes) and want to be able to take advantage of the opportunity,” the team wrote in an email to Dwayne Wilkerson, assistant director of club sports.
Despite its good fortune in finding the cheaper boats, the AU club sailing team still hit a snag. Wilkerson replied on Nov. 10, 2015 that the procurement office, which has to give the greenlight to buy the boats, wasn’t convinced the boats were quality. The team even attached pictures of the boats to the email, but Wilkerson wrote “procurement office said the pictures weren’t sufficient and they saw what they believed to be damage in the little they could see in the pictures. … They basically said it is like buying off Craigslist.”
Now, Milite and Anderson say the University is moving forward with purchasing the boats. The procurement office and the team worked out a deal where members will go to Buffalo to inspect and buy the boats, then transport them back to D.C.
“[Our] hopeful scenario is that we get the boats before April,” Milite said. “March is a little cold, but April would be the month to practice.”
Yet the team is rueful for the opportunities missed as the process stretched out over the better part of the year. Originally, the team hoped to have the boats in the fall semester. The team’s faculty sponsor, Jolie Roetter, knows the owner of the boats and the yacht club from which the team is buying the boats. Milite said Roetter has 40 years of sailing experience, and that the University should have trusted her judgement before questioning the quality of the boats.
“Now they seem kind of on board just because we pushed so much,” Milite said of the process to win approval for the boats. “It’s just frustrating the lengths you have to go to actually get involved in this campus. They should be pushing us to do it, instead of us pushing them.”