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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.”