Despite the cold wind in their faces and the sting of the Arcadia Lake water splashing their skin, members of the University of Central Oklahoma Sailing Team are fierce on the water.
“Sometimes when you're waiting on the dock before the race starts it get's so cold that you can't feel your hands. But as soon as we take off I don't even think about it anymore. Adrenaline takes over and all the physical movement that we do keeps us warm,” UCO Sailing Team treasurer Tyler Boerner said.
UCO Sailing Team President, Michelle Powell, said the team has a way of ensuring that teammates don't get hypothermia.
“It can get pretty chilly out there. But we have a formula that we go by to ensure that the weather conditions are safe enough for us to sail. We check water temperature, air temperature and the wind speed before going out on the water. That way we know no one will get hypothermia,” she said.
Powell said the team usually practices two to three days a week year round, typically on Lake Hefner until recently when water levels ran so low that the team had to move their practices to Arcadia Lake. To minimize expenses the team borrows sail boats from the Oklahoma City Boat Club.
The team attends Regattas in Texas and Kansas before heading off to the big competition — The Allstate Sugar Bowl Regatta on Sunday and Monday.
The Sugar Bowl Regatta was first sailed in 1934 and is the longest running collegiate regatta in North America. Each year it allows for sailing teams from across the nation to compete against each other on the water and to network on the shore.
This year the regatta is sponsored by Allstate Sugar Bowl Foundation and hosted by Tulane University in New Orleans. Powell said UCO will sponsor the teams travel and lodging expenses.
“We're pretty new to the scene,” UCO Sailing Team coach and biology professor David Bass said. “The team is just about two years old so this will be our second time going to the regatta. We're not at the top, but we're getting a reputation.”
Bass said the reputation the team is earning comes from the team member's attitudes and skills.
“They are really a great group of kids. They have great attitudes about learning and are always respectful to one another and competitors. It's a friendly sport and on the water they don't hold back but on the shore they are great friends with everyone,” Bass said.
Last year, with 14 teams competing, UCO came in tenth, Powell said.
While Powell hopes to do better this year, she said competing in the Regatta is about more than winning.
“You have to work hard and work together as a team. Communication is a must. If we don't communicate effectively with each other then nothing get's accomplished and if we don't communicate with other boats on the water it can lead to a dangerous situation. There are life skills being taught when you're learning how to sail,” Powell said.
Bass co-coaches the team with his wife, Donna Bass, who is also a staff member at UCO. With 35 years of sailing experience, David Bass said the sport will teach the team lessons that will last them a lifetime.
“They learn responsibility and hard work and hopefully a love for a sport that they'll carry with them for the rest of their lives,” Bass said.
Powell said her favorite part of attending the Sugar Bowl Regatta is socializing and networking with sailors from other teams across the nation.
“It's always fun to meet people who share the same interest as you do. I know that a lot of the team members make friends and network with people on other teams when we compete. I think we are pretty fortunate to be going.” Powell said.
Powell said the team will celebrate New Year's Eve together on Bourbon Street.
They are really a great group of kids. They have great attitudes about learning and are always respectful to one another and competitors. It's a friendly sport and on the water they don't hold back but on the shore they are great friends with everyone.” David Bass,UCO Sailing Team coach and biology professor