By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Around this time of year, typically Oklahoma State battles teams like Texas, Texas A&M and Tulane on the gridiron. Saturday, those teams will do battle on a different terrain — Stillwater’s Lake Carl Blackwell.
Several regional teams will set a course for Stillwater, where the water is likely to be anything but still, as the Oklahoma State Sailing Club hosts its first race since 2011 beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re pretty excited,” Oklahoma State Commodore Sam Webb said. “We don’t usually get big races like this. It’s been done in Galveston, Texas, last year. ... They didn’t have great attendance, so we got it back. We’re pretty excited. It’s the first big race of the year and we’re looking forward to it.”
Organized in the 1970s, the club has sailed a bit under the radar compared to Oklahoma State’s other club sports. But even as team members ebb and flow, Webb says there’s plenty of excitement surrounding the team.
“It has its ups and downs,” Webb said. “We just recruit on campus. We take a boat on campus and pass out fliers, do barbecues, stuff like that. Sailing is pretty easy to get into. We take pretty much anybody, no experience required. ... We’re open to everyone and we just try to get all the people we can. From there, we’ll teach people how to race.”
Sailers may come and go over the years but there’s one thing that’s led to the club sticking around for the better part of 40 years — the community.
From donating boats to volunteering time to help teach novices, several members of the community keep this club afloat.
“We’re really limited by our fleet,” Webb said. “We’re a smaller club relative to the University of Texas and Texas A&M. Our resources are fairly limited. We’re having to scrounge around for boats and we’re having to contact community members to borrow boats for the race.
“We really rely on our community members. They pretty much keep us going. College students come and go, but our community members will stay there for a more than a couple years. We have people like Terry Brown, who we borrow our boats from, and he’s helped us out a lot. ... We called him up and he’s been really helpful.”
They may be small in numbers, but that doesn’t mean this group of sailers won’t be competitive against their old nemesis from the South Eastern Intercollegiate Sailing Association. In fact, Webb is hoping the familiarity of Lake Carl Blackwell’s winds will favor Oklahoma State, and perhaps bring more winds of change and recognition to the club.
“It’s pretty enjoyable,” Webb said. “It’s not the first time we’ve faced them, they’re in our conference. We race them fairly often. We’ll see Texas, A&M, Tulane, SMU, teams like that. Occasionally, we’ll go to bigger races like at the Sugar Bowl (in New Orleans), where we’ll see teams like Navy and Wisconsin.”
While they may not get much fanfare on the south side of Lake Carl Blackwell — even on the warmest of days — there’s just something about being on the water that has a calming effect on sailers like Webb.
And even though Webb won’t be competing Saturday — opting to let others have a go — a post race trip around the lake may be just what the commodore will need after hosting a race this size.
“Saturday will be a long day,” Webb said. “We’ll start racing at 10 a.m. and go until 5 p.m. It’s a long day and it will be pretty exhausting, but it’s not going to be boring. There’s a bunch of stuff to do.
“A lot of people are pretty excited. For a lot of people who haven’t sailed before, this is like their first glimpse of what the end game of learning to sail is. I’m pretty nervous about whether or not it goes off without a hitch, but it should be pretty good.”