UH Sailing Team: Making Waves

The sails are aflutter on this practice day on Keehi Lagoon, and the University of Hawaii sailing teams are brimming with pride. A pre-season No. 1 national ranking for the coed team, a team win at the 2004 Coed Dinghy National Championships, and veteran sailors make for a combination of confidence boosters like not much else can.

Friday - November 04, 2005
By Lisa Asato
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Sailing
William Whitman and Leanne Horvitz

The sails are aflutter on this practice day on Keehi Lagoon, and the University of Hawaii sailing teams are brimming with pride. A pre-season No. 1 national ranking for the coed team, a team win at the 2004 Coed Dinghy National Championships, and veteran sailors make for a combination of confidence boosters like not much else can.

“In the last five years we can legitimately set our goal at winning the national championship, and that’s a really nice way to be able to start your year,” says coach Andy Johnson, who’s led the UH coed and women’s sailing teams to two national championships in five years.


“It’s all recruiting,” he says. “You get three or four super stars - you always say a great coach is only as good as his athletes - a lot of times you can make a good team, but a lot of times it really helps when you got super stars.”

Sailing
Above photo (from left): Shandy Buckley and Crystal Bronte,
Eric Oppen and Caitlin Hill

Count among his super stars Bryan Lake, a three-time All-American who’s won A Division at various national championships for three of the last four years. Of Lake’s three national titles, Johnson says: “There’s only been one other sailor in the history of college sailing who’s ever done that. I think it was somebody in the 1920s, so that’s a pretty big deal. And if Bryan (is) able to win it again this next year, it’s unprecedented. He’s already gone down in college sailing history (for three national championships), and if he gets four, I would say no one would ever break that record.”

Lake injured his knee during the men’s single-handed qualifiers on Oct. 21, but is sure to be back by Nov. 12 and 13, when Hawaii’s next shot at a national comes at the North/South Pacific Coast Fall Dinghy Championships in Lake Isabella, Calif. “I’ll be good to go,” Lake says. “We won there the last two years, so we’re pumped up, fired up, and ready to go.”


Tinja Anderson-Mitterling and
Becky Mabardy

Hawaii returns home Nov. 18-20 to host the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Single Handed Championships at Keehi Lagoon. The Rainbows’ only hope for a championship in that event rests with sophomore Tinja Anderson-Mitterling, the women’s team captain, who embraces the challenge.

“It’s an honor to represent Hawaii all by myself,” she says. “I’m used to having the boys take the lead. I’m really excited.”

Anderson-Mitterling exudes the confidence of her coach and predicts that UH is “on our way to winning another championship.” So what’s helped her win so far? “I tend to take risks and that keeps my coach on his toes,” she says. “Basically just sail for the puffs. That’s all I know how to do in Keehi Lagoon. Part of it’s luck, and part of it’s keeping your boat going fast.”


Anderson-Mitterling is hoping to compete in the single-handed race at the Olympic trials in 2007. “I have to qualify for it,” she says, “but right now my focus is Hawaii.”

At this weekend’s Women’s Fall Pacific Coast Championships in San Diego, Anderson-Mitterling will be assisted by Becky Mabardy, for whom Johnson has high praise. “Basically, whoever she gets in the boat with she’s able to make that particular skipper better,” Johnson says. “She’s really good and everybody on that team wants to sail with her. And I would think that if she keeps up with what she’s doing thus far this year, there’s a good chance she’ll make All-American.”

Sailing
Scott DeCurtis and Pam Magasinn,
Joey Pasquali and Becky Mabardy

Mabardy’s skipper on the coed team is Joey Pasquali. “He’s a pressure player,” Johnson says, adding, “Joey, Tinja and Bryan are all in the same category. It’s a pleasure to watch them race. When you need somebody to go in and make it happen for your team, all three of them can do that.”

But it’s not just about the super stars. Johnson, who took over as coach from Charlie Dole in 1989, also stresses team spirit. On a recent “team building,” sailors kayaked to Chinaman’s Hat and hiked to the top, where they took a team picture and Johnson talked about working toward common goals and “climbing a mountain all year long to achieve the national championship.”

“It’s important because all year long you want the team to work together to achieve a goal,” Johnson says. “And so they all need to feel like they’re contributing to a common goal.

Whether they’re actually on the traveling squad or not - bottom line you try to make sure they all understand every year whoever gets on the plane and starts for us on the Mainland, that person is representing everyone. Everybody makes everybody else better.”

That’s true in his personal life as well. Leslie, his wife, is a volunteer coach for the sailing teams, and Johnson says he couldn’t do it without her. “We got married six years ago and she just really embraced the whole sailing team and program,” he says. “It would be impossible for me to do this if she wasn’t into it.

“She’s an avid sailor and loves racing, and unfortunately doesn’t get to do it too much now because of the kids - plural - because we got another one that’ll be here by the time the story runs.”

That’s more good news for the coach - with one crinkle: The family cruising boat, the Cal 34, is named after the Johnsons’ daughter, Malia. “Now that we’re having another daughter,” he says, “we’re going to have to change the name.”

For more information, go to hawaiiathletics.com. For information on sailing classes through the Campus Center Leisure Programs, call 956-6468.hawaiiathletics.com

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