Heavy metal blares from the far end of the weight room. The physical effort of the 25 sweat-drenched college students working out this morning almost matches the song’s intensity. Iron dumbbells slam down against a rubber floor; steel weight bars clang into racks; heavy breathing and exhausted grunts complement the distorted guitar riffs, blast beat drumming and growling vocals pulsing from the speakers.
This is the Old Dominion University sailing team.
Perhaps you would have pictured pampered prep schoolers in white slacks and navy blue blazers. A gentle breeze ruffling a James Dean hairdo. Floating over gentle waves, coasting toward a dazzling sunset along a rocky cove – sailing line in one hand, martini in the other.
Picture instead a group of average-looking college students. They’ve got backpacks stuffed with running shorts, protein bars and overpriced textbooks. Cue a Rocky Balboa-style montage. These kids are up before sunrise and pumping iron. Cut.Now they’re running for miles along gritty inner-city streets, past rundown college apartments and boarded-up houses. Cut. Now they’re sailing through light rain, unpredictable wind gusts and choppy waters. Cut. Now they’re downing energy drinks and writing research papers at 3 in the morning.
This is collegiate sailing.
The gentleman’s sport born some 150 years ago in the halls of privileged British yacht clubs is no longer reserved strictly for the well-to-do. And nowhere is this more apparent than at ODU.