The Daily Bruin printed a feature on the UCLA sailing team's participation in the 43rd Course Croisière Edhec Sailing Cup today! Check it out!
Club sailing team makes big waves in international race in France
By LEE WITBECK
In the fall of 2007, the UCLA club sailing team was cruising through its season, competing in regattas up and down California.
Then, one of the team members, French foreign exchange student Chabrol Thibault, told the team about a potential opportunity: go to France and compete in the Course Croisière EDHEC.
Other team members didn’t really take it seriously at first. After all, it would cost about $20,000, would mean sailing in a different boat than they were used to, and would be halfway around the world.
Four years later, the event is a burgeoning annual tradition for the squad. This year, UCLAheaded to Lorient, France from April 9 to 16 to partake in the 43rd edition of the Course Croisière.
“I thought it was incredible. I thought it was a great experience,” second-year biochemistry student Emelia Pelliccio said.
“It was my first time in Europe and really my only way to get to Europe,” fourth-year psychology student Scott Barber said. “And to be able to do something there that I know so well, it was really incredible. Really incredible.”
Those are but a few of many glowing reviews from the team of sailors representing UCLA in France. Because of that, the team has been dedicated to overcoming financial burdens and sending a team to Europe over the past four years.
The Course Croisière is put on by the EDHECBusiness School located in Lille, France. Originally, the event was put on as a business venture by students from the school, and to this day it continues to be entirely student-run.
Though that might seem to be a limitation, the event is one of the largest and most prestigious sailing competitions in France. Over 100 teams from all over the world were present this year, and over 56 boats entered in competition.
With so many people from so many places, EDHEC built a village for all the teams akin to an Olympic village. And while the Course Croisière is a sailing regatta, or a series of races, not every moment can be spent on the water. The rest of the time is spent fraternizing with the other international sailing teams in this makeshift town.
“This is the first time I’ve ever experienced sailors from a different part of the world,” Barber said. “I really enjoyed that, because you kind of feel like everyone knows something together, but we’re from different parts of the world. It really brings people together easily, and the camaraderie that you build is great.”
Over the week in France, UCLA’s sailors couldn’t help but get close to the other teams, particularly the Spanish and Swiss contingents. While language would conceivably be a difficult barrier to cross, it was an almost nonexistent border.
“Most people spoke English pretty well. It’s surprising how well people around the world speak English and how often they use it,” Pelliccio said.
English isn’t the only thing the Europeans know about the United States. Once the UCLA team was in France, it noticed almost immediately that the people there knew who they were. The UCLA brand is so in demand that UCLA’s members found themselves trading their gear for others’ and returned home with little Bruin gear of their own.
“People know us. UCLA is huge,” Barber said. “People come up to you, ‘Hey, you’re UCLA!’ It’s amazing to see that 2,000 miles away.”
While the social aspects of the trip are monumental and some of the most memorable, the Course Croisière, in the end, is an international competition, and that’s the reason so many teams return to France each year.
There are three trophies which teams battle for: the Sea Trophy, the Land Trophy and the Sand Trophy. The Land and Sand trophies involve activities such as running, rock climbing and various beach games, but these trophies are secondary goals for most teams.
The big prize is the Sea Trophy, which is awarded to the strongest sailing team at the regatta. It is comprised of a series of seven races over several days. There are buoy races, in which teams race to a buoy before heading back to port, and long leg races, in which teams race from one port to the next and then back the next day.
This year, UCLA placed 20th out of 56 boats in the Sea Trophy competition. While that places UCLAsquarely in the middle of the pack, that result is fairly spectacular for the team at this stage.
Skipper Jake Muhleman, a UCLA alumnus, said that in previous years UCLA has placed in the bottom 10 to 15 spots.
This year, however, with practices beforehand and a more cohesive crew, he set a goal for the team: “Top 20 was a stretch goal, top half was our realistic goal.”
UCLA faced steep challenges going into the competition. First, the Grand Surprise boats used in the competition are different from the 14-foot Flying Juniors that UCLA usually sails.
The big boats require a crew of six – four more than the Flying Juniors – and the operation of the boat is much more complicated.
Second, many of the competitors in the Course Croisière are professionals. Some of them are even former racers of America’s Cup, one of the largest international sailing competitions.
Despite these obvious setbacks, UCLA has returned year after year and shown improvement. TheEDHEC Business School, which helps to sponsor UCLA’s entry, must be pleased with the growing presence the team is making, as it is one of the very few American teams there.
“UCLA already has a name there,” Muhleman said. “Now it’s about making ourselves known as a presence in the race, as serious competitors.”