By Jack Calhoun
City on a Hill Press Reporter
Take a brief walk through the East Field on campus, and you’ll be more than likely to stumble across a vibrant and active scene of runners traversing the jogging track, while soccer balls get kicked across the field and a dozen or so other activities simultaneously occur.
However, several miles away from the hustle is a fleet of small yet sturdy boats bobbing up and down in the calm, gentle waters of the Santa Cruz Harbor. In an office in the middle of that collection of boats sits Rusty Kingon, the current head of the UC Santa Cruz sailing team and the UCSC boating club.
This Tier II club of over 150 members, about a dozen of whom are also on the sailing team, survives on little school funding. This could make the club all but impossible to run for a hobby as expensive as boating, in which a simple repair could easily cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. As a means to cover the many demanding expenses associated with sailing, Kingon organizes and operates a year-round boating school, available to anyone from children to UCSC students to community members.
“We let them go out on the bay and really learn the nuts and bolts of sailing,” Kingon said. “It’s considered a P.E. class, so it’s available at $45 for UCSC students and $100 for nonstudents. It would cost $150 for the same class at Stanford.”
This money, along with covering other events and expenses, allows the UCSC sailing club to continue competing, Kingon said. The team regularly challenges schools such as Stanford, USC, UCLA, and CSU Monterey Bay and remains a respected opponent against such teams.
In addition to having a rich history of traditional competition against West Coast schools, the club also hosts its own annual trip, in which several members board one of the club’s yachts, donated by former UCSC student Peter C. Adam, and sail away to a far-off destination. The club has been fortunate enough to venture off to Hawaii, Florida and the Bahamas in previous years, among other locations.
Phil Vandenberg, a 34-year veteran of the UCSC boating program, has had his fair share of experiences with the sailing team since retiring. Throughout his days teaching at the UCSC boating center, Vandenberg has introduced well over 10,000 students to the nautical life, and is a well-respected member of the Santa Cruz boating community.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a real chick magnet,” Vandenberg said with a chuckle. “It started as a family activity for me. My dad got me into it when I was a child, and as I got into it, I met a lot of families from around the harbor.”
UCSC’s boating program was started in 1971 by Fresno State tennis instructor Dick Murray. The club had a rough start, and was struggling to operate with donations and volunteers. What the club lacked at the time was consistency. Two years later, in 1973, Vandenberg was hired to step in and take control of the program, and was able to give the club the stability that it needed in order to operate properly. Ever since Vandenberg entered the picture, the club has flourished.
Sailing competitions take on a variety of different forms, the most common of which is a course ranging anywhere from half a mile to a mile marked by buoys. A typical college race can sometimes see as many as 20 13-foot boats, known in the world of sailing as dinghies. These dinghies carry two occupants: the skipper and the crew. While the skipper controls the sail, essentially driving the boat, the crew is responsible for maintaining the trim of the vessel and preventing it from falling, primarily by shifting his or her body weight as necessary.
“I love being on the ocean and water in general,” co-captain Alex Belmont said. “I grew up sailing in Lake Michigan with my family, and I really wanted to get back on the water out here.”
Despite being an active member of the UCSC sailing team, Belmont’s love for the sport doesn’t end there. Several years ago, Belmont and a couple other active members of the team pooled their money together and purchased an inexpensive boat. Together, the crew patched up the minor dings and repairs, and now benefit from taking the boat out for a frequent sail. This is something Belmont and his friends in the club can’t seem to get enough of.
“It’s really amazing going anywhere I want on the water,” Belmont said. “I love being at one with the ocean. It’s amazing being able to go out with friends, and blow off some steam.”
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