During Marquette’s long winter, it is sometimes hard to remember that there are outdoor sports in the area besides skiing or snowboarding.
But Morgan Kinney, commodore of Northern Michigan University’s Sailing Club, never forgets. For Kinney, sailing is the thing to do in Marquette, as long as the lakes aren’t frozen.
Kinney started the club last year because she felt passionate about sailing.
“I was interested in starting it because I’ve been sailing my whole life,” Kinney said. “I created a Facebook (group) to see if there’s the interest here, and that got me in touch with Chad Lewis. We met up in a bar and said, ‘Well, let’s do it.'”
But the newly formed Sailing Club needed more than passion for sailing. They needed financial backing and boats.
Kinney, Lewis and the Sailing Club then began to ask around the Marquette area for support for the team and to see if they could acquire boats. They contacted the Marinette and Menominee Yacht Club to see if they could find support there.
“For three to four months, it was kind of up in the air whether we would get Flying Juniors,” said Kinney. Flying Juniors are 13 feet long sailing boats that are usually used in college sailing competitions. In the spring of last year, they received word that they would be getting the boats. The Yacht Club donated the boats to the university for the Sailing Club to use.
“It’s a huge deal,” Kinney said, who estimated the boats are worth $6,000 a piece. “We wouldn’t be here without the Marinette and Menominee Yacht Club.”
Jon Kukuk, the vice-commodore of Power at the Marinette and Menominee Yacht Club, and an alumnus of NMU, said that he felt it was a great opportunity to increase interest in sailing and to build connections between the yacht club and the NMU sailing club.
“The boats had been sitting for some time, and we decided to find a home for them and the first logical choice was the university,” Kukuk said. “Chad and Morgan seem to have a growing interest. It’s good to know that they’ll be used. I’m happy to see that program up and off the road.”
Kinney said she was also excited about the support she received from the community and from Northern.
“The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports has been really helpful towards helping us achieve our goals and getting our name out there and they’re been financially supportive as well,” said Kinney. “We want to thank the University for helping us out.”
The club, which has 18 members, is always happy to teach new people how to sail, Kinney said.
“Not everybody on the team has ever been on the boat before. One of the girls who went to her first regatta this spring had never been on a boat before and she got second in her fleet. You don’t have to know how to sail to join the team,” Kinney said.
Kinney said that she felt one of the strengths of the club was how close everyone became last fall during the regattas. Members of opposing teams can also become friends, she said.
“There’s no real tension in the air between teams. You’re hanging out later, going out to dinner later, you’re staying in touch,” she said.
Students at NMU are not the only ones who are passionate about sailing. English Professor and author John Smolens also enjoys sailing. Smolens has even raced in a few open-class regattas himself. Smolens, who owns a 26-foot sloop, said he enjoyed sailing in the area.
“Sailing on Lake Superior is one of the wonders of the natural world, a combination of basic elements, wind and water, which combine to allow a heeling sailboat take on a life of its own. There’s no place I’d rather be,” said Smolens.
Sophomore Mike Stoodley, who has been sailing all his life and a member of the club since almost the start, said he has high hopes for the club next year.
“We’ve had a promising start,” said Stoodley. “And our team is relatively young, so we’ll be here for a while.”