JC does sports: sailing


Sports editor JC Canicosa stands in a satirically heroic pose, ready to take on what Lake Pontchartrain throws at him. Photo credit: Sophie Duffy

Jc Canicosa

I now understand why Spongebob Squarepants has not been able to pass his boating test in 20 years. I finally get it.

As the sailing team stepped onto the docks of Lake Pontchartrain, I felt like a fish out of water as soon as I saw the boats. While it probably just looked like a standard vessel to the experienced sailor, all I saw was a tangled series of ropes, plugs and sails that all had some function in keeping the boat afloat.

The colloquial sailing lingo does not make things much clearer for a newcomer either, because the next thing I knew, I was starboard of the bow, acting as a crew member by tacking the jib windward into brackish waters. Even as I write this story, hours after surviving sailing practice and doing a little bit of research online, the only thing that I understand that I did was pulling whichever rope team captain Sofia Giordano told me to pull.

But even as a rookie sailor who didn’t know port from starboard, the lack of familiarity with the sport did not get in the way of enjoying the waters. It was a beautiful, sunny day with a light breeze pushing us away from the docks into Lake Pontchartrain. I was enjoying the calmness of the waves as I was hooking and unhooking seemingly random ropes and levers.

The calm of the waters was not cherished long, as right when our boat pulled up out of the docks, the sailing coach Kevin Gunn signaled that the team was about to run through a trial race.



Two long whistles meant the sailors had two minutes to get to the starting line.

“HHWWWWISSS” “hwis!” “hwis!” “hwis!”

One long whistle and three short whistles meant that we had a minute and 30 seconds left. Soon, the long whistles turned into a single “hwis!” and 10 second countdown. And we were off.

On the outside, the race probably just looked like three mildly fast-moving sailboats moving towards a red buoy and back, but inside the sailboats, there was a lot more excitement than that going on. Sails are moving. Ropes are latching and unlatching. Levers are turning and rocking. There’s never a dull moment when racing in a regatta with the sailing team.

And as if my first sailing practice didn’t have enough excitement and disorientation, the team finished off the practice with a capsizing drill. Before I could even say “I’ll never let go, Jack” our sailboat tipped over 90 degrees, plunging us into the waters of Lake Pontchartrain.

So while I didn’t fully master sailing on my first time out with the team, sailing as a sport is not particularly difficult to pick up on: it just requires a little more exposure and practice to fully understand how to master the skill than a mainstream sport like soccer or basketball would.

And though I had my struggles, it was still a lot of fun being out on the lake with the team; there was never a dull moment out there. And if Spongebob Squarepants can keep trying to learn how to boat after 20 years of failing the exam, then so can I.

Rating: 5/5 jibs

Verdict: Bring it on, Jack Sparrow