For the first time ever, the Penn Sailing Team competed in the Rose Bowl Regatta over winter break. The Rose Bowl Regatta, much like it’s namesake college football game, takes place just after New Years in Los Angeles, CA. Four members of the team flew out to enjoy the weather, improve our skills, and increase our team’s visibility to the high-caliber west coast high school sailors.
The weather was sunny, warm, and a light southwest sea breeze filled in each day right around noon. There were occasional shifts, but the breeze was more about pressure than angle. 32 colleges competed in this event to make it the largest fleet I’ve raced against in college sailing.
Because of the size of the fleet (30 boats), there was a greater emphasis on starts, mark roundings, being conservative, and keeping a clear head. The favored end of the line usually had a significant pile-up and any given mark rounding could get messy, so keeping clear and sailing our own race was important. Starting a little off the favored end to get a clear start and getting a clear lane through the racecourse allowed us to get fairly consistent results. The size was also a bigger factor in bad races. In one race, Cary and I had to spin early so we rounded the windward mark third to last. We sailed our own race and kept ourselves clear which allowed us to catch ten boats and turn a very bad race into an okay race.
This was Carolyn’s second regatta as a crew and my first double-handed regatta in general, so the learning curve was steep. On Friday, Jack thoroughly went over the full process of tacking while Carolyn and I sailed and practiced the mechanics. Carolyn and I saw quick improvement after an hour of tacking drills. As the regatta progressed muscle memory started to kick in and by the end we were able to tack well somewhat consistently. My feel for the upwind boat speed steadily improved and Carolyn and I finished the regatta with our best set.
This was our first time to Rose Bowl as a team and the recruiting aspect was pretty unique. The college night was packed and Jack gave a good speech during his 90-second allotment to introduce us to high schoolers, but most of the recruiting was done on our own time through talking to parents, coaches, and sailors. We shelled out a ton of Penn Sailing Business cards and faced a lot of anticipated comments like “Is that Penn State?”, “is that the Ivy?”, and “wait who?”. We talked to sailors ranging from curious underclassmen to juniors and seniors who were considering applying or had already applied. Ultimately, we improved a lot and left a footprint in a region where we previously were pretty much unknown.
We had a great time and learned a lot, and we definitely hope to be back next year! Also, thank you very much to the Romm family for graciously hosting the team during our stay in California.
-Keen Butcher ’18