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Ben Dietrich, Pearce Pomerleau, Lucas Blatter, and Jacob Weaver competed in the Laker Challenge last Saturday in Holland, Michigan. Jacob Weaver | Courtesy

If the idea catches wind, Hillsdale College may add sailing to its list of club sports next year.

Juniors Pearce Pomerleau and Jacob Weaver — the co-founders of the club — plus two other Hillsdale students competed in the Laker Showdown in Holland, Michigan, on April 1-2, sailing 20 races total and placing 12th.

There will be an informational meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Formal Lounge for interested students. Pomerleau and Weaver said their desire to start the club stems from their love for sailing and the idea that other Hillsdale students would, too.

“Our goal is a two-part goal,” Weaver said. “The first is to get students interested in and involved in sailing and teach them to sail and really promote the sport. The second portion would be to develop sailors in a way that will allow us to compete in different competitions in the Midwest and hopefully at the national level one day.”

Pomerleau and Weaver both have a history with sailing and independently were working to start a sailing club on campus, when a mutual friend connected them, Pomerleau said. Since then, the two have worked together to spread awareness and measure interest levels on campus.

“We’ve been stumbling on more and more people who enjoy the sport of sailing or would like to know more,” Weaver said. “It’s really a lifelong sport. It has a very broad appeal, especially to the students of Hillsdale.”

So far, the club has nine experienced sailors lined up to compete next semester, including one incoming freshman.

“That’s not including all of the incoming freshmen we don’t know about,” Pomerleau said.  

Weaver said he wants the team to compete in six or seven regattas in the Midwest Conference Sailing Association next semester. First, the club will need to find a faculty adviser and apply to be an official club sport.

The men plan to practice on Lake Baw Beese using the boat Weaver bought and fixed up when he was 16 years old.

“I read a book, tossed it on the water, and hoped for the best,” Weaver said.

Pomerleau said he comes from a sailing family and has competed since he was 5 years old. When junior Lucas Blatter, however, competed with Weaver and Pomerleau, it was only his second time sailing.

“Two days prior to the competition, I had no idea the sailing club was a thing at all,” Blatter said in an email. “We went out to Baw Beese, and Jacob taught me the ropes — no pun intended. Second time I ever sailed was in competition, and it was definitely different. Way more pressure, all these rules I didn’t know about, some of the teams were super intense about it, too.”

Hope College and Grand Valley State University co-hosted the Laker Challenge, drawing 10 schools to compete in the regatta. Hillsdale placed 12th of 13 teams.

“We did really have low expectations,” Pomerleau said. “It’s a really great community. We met so many wonderful people from other schools who were really welcoming to the idea of Hillsdale having a team.”

In the 1940s and late 1950s, Hillsdale College had a competitive sailing club. In the spring of 1980, Hillsdale students set sail once again and again in 1995. For more than a decade, however, Hillsdale has stayed off the water.

Weaver said he’s excited about the prospect of Hillsdale joining the collegiate sailing community.

“This is not just a random sport,” he said. “This is an established tradition at colleges across the Midwest, and we have access to Baw Beese, we’re in a prime location as far as regattas go. We’re a little land-locked here, but we’re a doable distance from every major school in our conference except Wisconsin and Minnesota. The club is not just about competition; it’s about understanding what sailing is and enjoying the sport itself.”