Around The Yard: Kevin Coakley

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Kevin Coakley
April 3, 2017

“We have a sailing team?”

That is probably the most common response when I tell someone that I’m on the Harvard sailing team.  Frankly, it makes sense. College sailing is a niche sport and not many people know what we do. However, for the thirty members of the Harvard sailing team, the sport has made an indelible impact on our college experience.

No, we do not sail giant yachts that look like the Mayflower. We do not just float around the Charles River. We do not sit in boats while wearing Sperry’s and polo shirts.

Rather, we practice, lift, and travel as a team. We compete at full-weekend regattas for ten weekends during both the fall and spring semesters. If all goes well, we stay on campus after final exams in the spring and train until the national championships in June.

Everything involved with sailing is done as a team. The boats we use in college sailing require two people, so you sail with a single partner for the entire semester. Between practicing, traveling, and competing with your partner, you spend roughly forty hours together every week in very close proximity. You learn with and from your partner. You rely on and improve with each other. Not only do you get close with your partner, but you also get close with the rest of the team. These relationships between teammates are the aspect of the Harvard sailing team that has been most significant to me. 

Unlike other sports, we do not get enough recruits to fill our roster and depend on walk-ons. This means that we have sailors from completely disparate backgrounds, including many who never set foot in a sailboat before college. We have high school national champions in the same boats as former musicians and artists. The diversity of experiences and interests found on our team is what make it such a special group.

My teammates study every subject from applied math to classics to neurobiology. They volunteer, promote student activism, and take photographs for The Crimson. They write theses, conduct research, and earn Phi Beta Kappa honors.

In addition to their community involvement, my teammates expose me to a wide breadth of life experiences. They hail from every corner of the United States and several corners of the globe. Weekly van rides to Rhode Island or New York provide opportunities to learn about growing up in Saudi Arabia or a U.S. Territory. The MBTA Red Line is an excellent venue for discussions about life on a military base. Locker room conversations range from class recommendations to prognostications on the New England Patriots’ draft strategy. From the mundane to the extraordinary, I continually learn from the sailors around me.   

Does Harvard have a sailing team? Yes, and the people on it have taught me far more than I have learned in a classroom or in a race.