Top-10 finish in Santa Barbara for the Vikes Sailing team

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As far as school sports trips go, few are likely to be longer or more successful than the one taken by members of the UVic sailing team this past month. The Vikes undertook a lengthy road trip to Santa Barbara, Calif., to take part in the Pacific Coast Championships, where they made a name for UVic by placing 10th out of a strong 21-team pool.

The journey to attend the regatta started long before the team left Victoria on Nov. 14, however. A limited number of entries are available to schools from out of state, which meant UVic had to begin the application process well in advance of the competition.

“At the beginning of the year, all the schools in the Pacific Northwest have to apply for the limited amount of spots you can get from out of state. Us and three other schools managed to get the invitation to the event from our district,” says head coach Geoff Abel.

“That was back in September, actually. So this had been in the planning process for a long time, and we knew that this event was going to be our premier event, so we wanted to make sure that we got the spot.”

With their spot at the table secure, all that remained, aside from months of training, was the long trip down to Santa Barbara. The team set off in a two-car convoy, and after 25 hours and over 2 000 kilometres, arrived at their destination on Nov. 15.

While an extended road trip can often be risky for relationships, in this case it was a positive for the team. “It was great to get the team together and go for a road trip; it was a really good bonding experience,” said Abel. “It was an epic road trip.”

The team did not have long to rest, with the first slate of races starting on Nov. 16. The format of the competition split the 10-person Vikes team into an expert varsity fleet of six, including Abel and captain Sarah Berry, along with a junior varsity fleet of four. The combined success of the two squads would determine UVic’s final standing in the tournament.

This premier sailing event had no trouble attracting the top talent on the west coast, including powerhouses Stanford, CSU Long Beach, Hawaii, and the host, UC Santa Barbara. Abel points out the advantage these major American schools have in terms of their athletic programs.

“The big difference for us was all these other teams are varsity teams, so they have a lot more funding than we do. They have enough to fund a full-time coach and even support staff. Not only do they have amazing sailors, but they have the funding and resources.”

Refusing to be intimidated though, the Vikes shone on the big stage, posting a series of determined performances over the two-day event to finish 10th overall at the weekend’s close. Berry and teammate Reid Cannon led the way for UVic, placing fourth in their division to secure major points for the Vikes cumulative score.

Abel was more than happy with the result. “When we went down our goal was top 10.” He believes UVic could have done even better if, ironically, the weather had been a little nastier than the mild conditions that were on display over the weekend.

“As a team, we were hoping for different conditions. We were hoping for much bigger wind and waves, because that’s what we train in a lot down here in Cadboro Bay. Where we find our legs against other teams is when we get into wind and waves.”

A top-10 finish, along with recognition on the international stage, would be enough for any team’s checklist. UVic was in for even more, however, when they found out their score was high enough to qualify them for the Rose Bowl Interconference Regatta, to take place at USC in Los Angeles in January.

“Awesome. Really exciting,” Abel said of the team’s reaction. “We were really, really happy when we found out we qualified.”

This of course means the Vikes will be back on the road in a month, as they look to continue their triumphant representation of UVic abroad. To help offset the costs of trips up and down the west coast, the team has sponsored a series of events to assist with the travel costs, including a Krispy Kreme fundraiser and Naughty Nautical Night at Touch Lounge on View St. this past Friday.

“It’s going straight to financing our travel to these really big and important events. We’re really trying to represent the school,” Abel says, on the extended goals of the team.

The Rose Bowl will kick off a busy 2014 for the Vikes sailing squad, whose international tour also includes the Rainbow Cup in Hawaii.

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