While most students are just trying to stay afloat academically, members of the McGill Sailing team must balance school with practices, competitions across the East Coast, and fundraising initiatives to finance their season.
“The McGill sailors on the team are the most dedicated group of athletes I’ve ever met,” McGill Sailing Vice-President Renee Torrie said.
The sailing schedule is intense, with practices held four afternoons a week and competitions every weekend. The team’s first-place finish in three regattas this season has sustained their spirits as well as their rankings.
“In Canada, we are first right now,” Torrie said. “We just won the National Championship. And in the U.S., […] we’re ranked 16th, which is right in the middle for New England.”
Their efforts paid off in the Canadian National Championship, taking home the first-place finish. McGill sailing’s high ranking in New England is especially admirable considering the high level of competition from American schools. American teams have varsity designation and are fully-funded by their schools. McGill’s sailing team only has club status, meaning that while it is supported by the university, it relies on team fees and fundraising to finance its season.
“We recently have been purchasing new boats and that was a big logistical thing,” Torrie said. “The people at [McGill Athletics] have been really helpful [logistically] in helping us import the boats, buy the boats, [and] all of that.”
The purchase of 12 second hand from St. George’s School in Rhode Island has made all the difference for the sailing team. Formerly, the team had to borrow boats from the Royal St-Lawrence Yacht Club in Dorval, where the team practices. The club has been very gracious in accommodating the team, but their boats were uneven, meaning that some were capable of faster times than others, which made inter-team competitions during practice difficult. Though perhaps not the epitome of luxury, the new boats represent an improvement over the old fleet as they are even, which has lent to the sailing team’s remarkable success this season.
“These boats have significantly improved our practices,” President Amanda Ivey explained. “Having an even fleet is extremely useful because it allows you to better compare your boat speed […] while eliminating variables significant to the specific boat.”
The fleet of boats are expensive, costing over $40,000 to purchase and transport to Montreal. Without subsidies from McGill, the sailing team is forced to embark on fundraising campaigns themselves to acquire the new equipment they need to remain competitive. The team has fundraised successfully through “Seeds of Change” campaigns and by mobilizing members of the wider McGill and Montreal community. Seeds of Change is a not-for-profit crowdfunding network where McGill alumni, friends, and family are able to make donations to help organizations reach their goals.
“We had no idea what our community could do for us until we launched our campaign,” Fundraising Coordinator Isaiah Riesman-Tremonte said. “I had the distinct feeling that we had started something really special.”
Indeed, the sailing team surpassed their initial fundraising goal with donations from friends and family culminating in $40,000 raised over two years. This process has brought the team and the Montreal community closer together.
“It’s a family,” Torrie said. “It’s the most supportive, loving group of people ever. I think being a club team makes us more cohesive, gives us something to strive towards. We always want to be improving together, trying to prove ourselves, […] it’s really more than just a sailing team.”
The McGill Sailing team has overcome a lack of funding from McGill by connecting with a wider community. Perhaps that is why they train so hard—they have a sense of responsibility beyond their own team.
“We have an [extremely] committed community that cares about us,” Riesman-Tremonte said. “We have them to thank for our success this year.”