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Matt Culkin

Tulane’s sailing club wants to brave the high winds and become avarsity program.

After years of recovery and improvement, Tulane’s sailing clubis finally seeking to obtain varsity status. The group suffered asetback in 2005 when larger boats destroyed its fleet duringHurricane Katrina. Luckily, a generous donation from Tulane AlumniSailors allowed the team to survive, though only at a clublevel.

“Our goal since then has been to get back to a varsity level,”team secretary Jake Schulist said. “Our goal is to be back therewithin five years.”

A sailboat seats two racers: a skipper who mostly controls thedirection and leads the boat, and a crew who uses his own bodyweight to keep the boat level. Races consist of several differentteams of two sailing counter-clockwise around three markers thatform a loop. Wind is the largest deciding factor when it comes towho finishes first.

“It’s all about who keeps their boat flat,” Schulist said. “Theflattest boats catch the wind, and that’s how you win.”

Schulist, along with his fellow captains – Mackenzie Milne, PhilKrause and Lauren Cargo – has helped lead the charge in making boththe men’s and women’s division at Tulane the team to beat in theSoutheast Sailing Association. Challenged only occasionally by therival Texas Longhorns, Tulane has won its division practicallyevery year since Katrina and has already qualified forsemi-nationals this year by winning the Q-1 Qualifier two weeksago. Despite its conference dominance, Tulane still remains weakwhen competing with stronger varsity programs.

“We always get to semi-nationals, and our girls team has made itto Nationals before, but when you get to [Nationals], it’s everyprogram on the East-Coast,” Schulist said. “We just can’t competewith that.”

A rise to varsity status would potentially help the Green Wavecompete at this higher level. Money and members seem to be the mostimportant factors in turning sailing into a major sport. Tirelessattempts for donation were eventually rewarded with enough moneyfor 10 new 420-boats (4.2 meters in length) in fall 2011. The 420’spurchased after Katrina were beginning to show their age. Thisupgrade in hardware was a must to help the team improve.

Unfortunately, it is a lack of enough sailors that is preventingthe team from achieving varsity status. Because it is a club, itcannot actively recruit high school students or give any sort ofscholarship incentive to students who join. The team wants to havetwo sections of racers: a travel team which always competes and aB-team consisting of younger members and members who are lessactive on the team.

Tulane sailors, therefore, rely on recruiting on theLavin-Bernick Center quad looking for new racers. Forced to sticksolely to sometimes inexperienced Tulane students, however, theteam does what it can for now.

Tulane heads to Texas this weekend and will remain in NewOrleans the following weekend for a Mardi Gras home meet. The racewill take place on Feb. 18 and Feb. 19 at the Southern Yacht Clubon Lake Pontchartrain.