Itâ€™s smooth sailing ahead for one student-run club at the University of Pennsylvania.
As its captain, Jack Swikart, a rising senior at Wharton from Rumson, N.J., has steered Penn Sailing toward the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Associationâ€™s national championship semifinals on June 3-4 at St. Maryâ€™s College of Maryland.
Penn is among 36 schools participating in the semifinals. After the first two days of the competition, 18 teams will advance, setting sail for the ICSA finals, June 5-6.
This is the first time Penn will be competing in the championships since 2009.
Swikart credits the teamâ€™s success to its hard work and the leadership of his co-captains for the past two seasons, rising senior Patricia Andrade from Bogota, Colombia, who is studying international relations, and rising junior Meaghan Harding, an English major from Annapolis, Md.
He says that as a student-run club team, Penn Sailingâ€™s advancement to the semifinals is especially noteworthy, as they often compete against varsity teams that boast full-time coaches.
â€śAmong the teams going to nationals from our district, we are the only student-run club,â€ť says Swikart, who also serves as the undergraduate president of the Middle-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association.
Penn Sailingâ€™s fleet consists of nine Flying Juniors, which are 14-foot-long, two-person boats. The most common type of boat in college sailing, the club received its current fleet nearly 10 years ago, thanks to the successful fundraising efforts of the late Jack LeFort, the clubâ€™s graduate advisor at the time.
â€śThe best part about being on the team, in my opinion, is the travel,â€ť says Swikart, who is also a brother in the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. â€śWeâ€™re really fortunate to have the opportunity to get off campus and travel around to different regattas with a great group of friends to compete in the sport we love.â€ť
Swikart sailed a lot growing up. When selecting a college, he knew that he wanted to sail at a school that was academically rigorous. Penn fit both criteria.
â€śI got in touch with the team captain before I arrived on campus my freshman year and I joined the team on the first day of the activities fair,â€ť says Swikart.
Due to increased interest this year, the Sailing club will begin to host informal tryouts starting in the fall of 2014. The teamâ€™s goal is to keep the roster under 35 people, to make sure that everyone gets time on the water, Swikart says.
As a student-run club, members plan their own travel, practices and competitions. They carpool twice a week to afternoon practice at the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia. In ideal weather the club meets up to four days per week.
Like most college sailing teams, Pennâ€™s Sailing club is co-ed and is open to all students. Those with little or no experience can join the club as â€śrecreational sailors,â€ť while those with a lot of experience sign on as â€śrace members.â€ť