Connecticut College finishes fall season ranked top 25 nationally
Most of the best sailors begin at a young age, and Jamestown’s Gabe Salk is no exception. The son of an avid sailor, Salk recalls first sailing at 7 years old. Most good sailors also begin in dinghies, and, once again, Salk is no exception: He began sailing in Optimists before moving on to Lasers and 420s.
“My dad started sailing in his mid-teens and then sailed while he was doing his residency in Hawaii,” Salk said. “When he returned, he joined Conanicut Yacht Club and decided that he wanted his kids to sail. So my sisters started to sail, and when I was old enough, I was put in the program.”
Salk grew up in Jamestown and attended the local schools before going to Providence Country Day School. While there he was part of a sailing team that won several national regattas, and individually Salk qualified for the national Laser championship twice. He traveled to Ithaca, N.Y., and Corpus Christi, Texas, on those occasions.
“I didn’t do particularly well, but I was happy to be there because it was the top 18 kids in the country.”
Salk graduated from high school in 2010. He is currently a junior at Connecticut College in New London, where he is studying biology in hopes of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a doctor. The sailing program at Connecticut College was an important consideration for Salk when he was looking for schools to attend.
“I only looked at colleges that I knew had competitive sailing programs,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to be on a sailing team during college.”
The Connecticut College sailing team is among the elite programs in the country. There is a women’s team and a co-ed team, with a roster of approximately 24 sailors. The teams sail on 420s, as well as FJs. This year the team took second place at the Atlantic Coast tournament that takes place in St. Mary’s, Md. The competition included the top 14 teams in the region. With 96 points, the Camels finished just six points behind the College of Charlestown.
Jeff Bresnahan is Salk’s coach. He is in his 22nd year as coach of the sailing team. Despite the hurdle of having to qualify against strong teams in the conference, his teams have reached nationals a number of times during his career. It’s a feat that he hopes the team will repeat this season.
“Gabe is really coming along,” Bresnahan said. “As a science major there is obviously a big commitment on the academic side. There have been some good opportunities for him this fall, and he has really jumped into the role. We needed him to do well in a couple of events. He won an event at the University of New Hampshire that meant a lot to us. He’s really putting himself in a good spot.”
Both the women’s squad and co-ed team are presently in the top 10 in the conference. They are also both top 25 nationally. After a break for the winter, workouts for the spring season begin in mid-February. Sailing begins in early March. The season continues through early June.
The New England Interscholastic Sailing Association includes teams from both large and small schools. In addition to Connecticut College, conference members include Brown, the University of Rhode Island, Harvard, Yale, Boston College, University of New Hampshire and Tufts. There are about 60 teams in the conference, and it is widely considered the most competitive sailing league in the nation.
The season begins for Salk and his teammates two days before school starts in late August. Everyone is expected to do pre-season conditioning and sailing during the summer months. Practice begins immediately, and by the time the first weekend in September rolls around, the team is taking part in its first regatta. The races continue nearly every weekend until the first weekend of November, when the fall season ends.
The home regattas for Connecticut College take place on the Thames River, which flows right past the school. Away regattas this season have taken place on the Boston Harbor, the Charles River, Mystic Lake and other bodies of water along the East Coast.
While Salk intends to continue his college sailing career, as well as more big boat sailing and distance races in the future, he does not expect to pursue the sport as a professional.
“I don’t think sailing professionally for the rest of my life is a viable option,” Salk said. “I try to be realistic. I don’t think I have the skills to do that, and I don’t think that’s the kind of life I want to live. I’d like to join a yacht club and do the Sunday afternoon series and that kind of thing.”