Dropping The Anchor On Penn State’s Sailing Season
There are hundreds of clubs at Penn State and dozens of sports, both varsity and club, and though many are by field or court, there’s one by sea. Though you might not expect to find student boaters in Central Pennsylvania, Penn State’s Club Sailing Team just finished its season of regatta competitions last weekend.
Penn State Sailing is nothing new for its Commodore (naval lingo for president), Sarah Culp. Growing up, Culp attended summer camps to learn about sailing for several years leading up to high school.
“I didn’t race in high school, but picked sailing right back up when I got to school at Penn State,” she said. “Although most people in the club don’t have prior sailing experience, let alone know that we have a sailing team here, I had known about the club beforehand and sought them out at the fall involvement fair.”
To be considered an active member of the club, students only have to fill out a participation waiver and pay the semester’s dues (in addition to having a curiosity/passion for sailing, of course).
Culp’s involvement with the club began with her freshman year here in Happy Valley.
“It’s funny how I got involved in the club so quickly. I was a freshman in 2013, I had gone to one of the first meetings, and ended up signing to host a canning trip,” Culp said. “Following that week, I had probably missed three or four meetings before I was contacted by a THON chair about hosting for canning. I attended one practice before inviting four strangers to my house, but our THON chair was so welcoming and I had so much fun that weekend that I instantly became more involved with the club.”
As a senior and Commodore of the team, Culp is in charge of overseeing all club activities, including any club events, meetings, and practices, which are held every Sunday from the start of the school year to mid-October.
If you’re wondering where club sailing actually sails and practices, you’re not alone. There really aren’t any lakes on or near campus. The club’s home water is located at Lake Glendale, about an hour away in Prince Gallitzin State Park in Patton, PA. Members keep 10 of its 14 sailboats here, with the other four stored at the crew’s alternative practicing grounds at Stone Valley Recreation Center.
Weekly practices are essential for competing in multiple regattas (a series of races) during the fall season. The team of four or five members chosen to compete at each regatta is able to travel up and down the east coast to Virginia, New York, New Jersey, and even Ontario, Canada for weekend competitions.
Unfortunately, this year proved to be more of a rebuilding season for the team.
“Right now, we are more interested in getting members out competing for experience,” Culp said. “Our scores were not great this season but we are rebuilding and working on getting more members involved and learning the art of racing.”
One of those members is freshman Fritz McVay who couldn’t be more excited to join the team this early in his collegiate career. A member of the Naval ROTC, McVay has a natural passion for being on the water, and for him, Club Sailing was the closest thing to satisfying that desire in State College. Even so, it wasn’t the sailing that stood out to him at first, but the people.
“I was most impressed with the diversity within the club,” McVay said. “Each officer is so professional and organized they end up spreading those qualities to every other member. I also appreciated the reception. There were plenty of opportunities to get to know everyone prior to starting practices and they were all extremely willing to hang out and meet the newbies.”
Culp couldn’t agree more. For her, the best part about the club is the friends she’s made over the years.
“The people make it fun! We start every meeting with ‘story time’ where members can share a story with the team,” Culp said. “It’s fun and goofy and always a great way to start off a weekly meeting. It’s just really fun to make new friends every year and share your passion with people who are willing to learn. I was inspired to take a leadership role my final semester, so I did, and it’s been a blessing ever since.”