Dedicated individuals facilitate success of Illini sailing program
In a time of big-money college athletics, the University of Illinois sailing team is showing what a group of organized, like-minded individuals can accomplish in a rapidly growing sport.
The program has grown immeasurably in the last five years, thanks in part to their previous commodore, Melinda Lee, who will graduate this fall.
For those unfamiliar with sailing, the commodore serves as the leader of the club. In this case, he or she reports to the office of Registered Student Organizations and deals with all governing body issues, as
well as playing a vital role in the fleet.
The current commodore, Paul DeTrempe, believes he is up for the challenge, and will have to pick up right where his predecessor left off.
“She was without a doubt our best skipper, and her dedication to the team during her time at U of I is one of the main reasons the team is as prosperous as it is today,” DeTrempe told the Chambana Sun.
The team has performed admirably thus far, starting with a respectable finish in the Macatawa Invite in early April. The team dealt with freezing temperatures, and even had to spend time chipping ice out of their
boat before the start.
Their next competition in the Wisconsin 3 Division featured a better result, in which they finished fourth out of seven competitors.
Despite the improvement, the Illinois sailing team is not gifted with the same financial benefits that bigger programs are accustomed to.
Because of this, they face greater challenges, and DeTrempe understands they need to be patient with less-than-ideal results.
“I'm pretty satisfied with the results thus far; we're a team that doesn't really have the funding for a coach, and is a good distance away from our practice area (Lake Decatur is about 45 minutes from campus), so
we don't expect to compete for first or second place overall against the better prepared and funded programs such as Wisconsin or Northwestern,” DeTrempe said.
Because they are a student organization, the team often practices on their own time, and in the summer this becomes less frequent. Most members will have to find time to sail on their own at home if they are to
improve, and that’s not a reality for everyone.
"The majority of the members either sail on some sort of boat in the Chicago area, or take the summer off from sailing,” DeTrempe said. “The sport tends to have a pretty steep financial barrier to entry, and the team
offers frequent sailing at a reasonable price (dues are $70 for the year), so for many, being at school during the season is the only way they can sail.”
Even without a lot of summer training, sailors will have to be ready this fall, as the team will feature in four regattas. The team is most looking forward to the University of Illinois regatta, which they host every
In all, they will travel to Wisconsin, Iowa and Chicago for competitions. The fall season begins Sept. 10.