BY: RITIA BRUCE AND VIVIAN GATICA
While Cal State Long Beach is known for its success in baseball and basketball, it most recently struck gold sailing overseas with a team ranked number 19 in the nation. The CSULB sailing team was resurrected in spring 2011 by team captain Shane Young, his brother Chase, and former team member Laura Newton after a more than 15-year hiatus. The Young brothers and Newton grew up sailing together with the first few members of the team, and started recruiting from there.
“It was hard for us to gain recognition at first, yet alone be allowed to compete at regattas, but those days are over and the team has gained tremendous respect in the collegiate sailing community,” Newton said.
They designed new uniforms, recruited endlessly for qualified sailors, and began practicing in hopes of attaining the success that CSULB had in the 80s.
“We were kind of considered underdogs when we showed up to regattas, but we loved the challenge,” team member Mark Ryan said.
After two years of training and competition, a member of the Long Beach Yacht Club and a professor from CSULB approached the team with the idea to compete in China at the Pan-Pacific Intercollegiate Regatta. After deliberating, the team decided that it was an opportunity that they could not let pass.
“We just agreed as a team that we needed to try it out,” Ryan said. “It’s like when you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.”
Five of the members on the team would compete overseas to represent CSULB. However, before this could happen, they would have to raise $12,000.
The team raised the money through various donations from the sailing community, dinner fundraisers at the Long Beach Yacht club, and t-shirt sales.
“It was a lot of hard work, but the payoff was gold in China, and a great experience,” Ryan said.
The team also received training support from local sailors as they trained in Marina del Rey. In China, they would have to compete in a 25-foot long sports boat known as the J80, and members of the Marina del Rey sailing community lent them their J80 boats to go out and train. Experienced sailors even went out and helped them train for the competition.
“This allowed us to finetune all of our boat handling and communication in the boat,” Young said.
With all the financial and training support, the team headed for China in July to compete against 19 collegiate teams from China, Singapore, and Taiwan.
“Our whole team was very excited to [represent] our country,” Young said. “It was pretty surreal at first, but we took the event very seriously and made sure to make the most of it.”
The Long Beach sailing team braved the strong currents and tough competition, and won all seven races of the tournament. The team followed the sailing tradition of jumping in the water for a swim after their win.
“Words can’t express how great it felt winning for our school and our city, and bringing home the gold for America,” Ryan said. “It was a blast trying strange food, meeting really great people and sailing fast for Long Beach.”
The regatta ended with an awards ceremony, where the teams exchanged gifts and celebrated the end of an incredible competition. Young even ended the night by giving a speech in the little Chinese he knew.
Although the competition over, the team has made it clear that they are dedicated to keeping the team going, and not letting it die out.
“It’s easy for a small team [of 15] to fizzle out again, so it’s our focus to build a good, solid foundation for the team to continue recruiting and succeeding,” Ryan said.
The sailing team brought back something to Long Beach that will go down in the books forever. Not only did the team prove themselves locally, but overseas as well. So while CSULB triumphs on the court, dirt and field, this proves that you cannot count out the sailing underdogs.