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Discovering our roots

Over the summer, some of the USTST members had the chance to meet a few of the team's founders.

Photo courtesy of Livia Wagner
"Where'd you get that sweatshirt?" I heard from across the A Scow my dad was helping rig, "I had it made" was my reply. A curt response due to the sun in my eyes and heat on my skin, as well as the fact that it was true. As the Merchandise Coordinator for the UST sailing team, it was my job to design and purchase apparel. A bold purple "ST Sailing" logo adorned my sweatshirt.

"I tried to start the St. Thomas team up a few years back," was the reply of who I then recognized was Hans Vroege. Hans had tried to get the team going again in 2015, along with the help of two other Lake Minnetonka sailors who attended St. Thomas. It was a short conversation as the parking lot was full and buzzing with sailors rigging and prepping their boats for the ILYA Inland on Lake Geneva. Hans and I didn't get a chance to talk again, and thus, I was never able to formally introduce myself, and thank him for his efforts.

Attending the regatta as well, was our president Rachel Bartel, who, on one of our days there, told me she had met another founder, Bob Foster. "So how did you meet him?" I asked, eager for her story. "He was at the Shino event."

The "Shino event" is put on by the family of Dan Shinozaki, a former member of the UST sailing team who passed away in 2010 due to colon cancer. Raising money for local sailing programs, the Sailing with Shino Foundation is one of our biggest supporters and one we will forever be grateful for. Rachel attended the event and ran into Bob Foster while there. Foster, who helped start the team in the early 2000s, sailed with Shinozaki.

With my mind buzzing over these interactions, I eagerly finished the "Our Story" page for the team's website, insistent upon others knowing where we came from and who paved our way. The history of this team matters because the sailing community is tight-knit, especially in the midwest where six degrees of separation is more common than not. Thus, knowing where we started, and connecting with those who took part in the club, helps us to see and recognize our alumni with appreciation. It also helps us to spread awareness. Some people may know us, some have known prior students, but connecting us all together creates a vast network of like-minded individuals who hoped and continue to hope this team succeeds.

On the last day of the regatta, I walked up to Karen Alnes, who sails with my father on the current ILYA Commedore's A Scow. Karen, the most well-connected sailor I have ever met, was talking to an unknown MC Scow sailor. After introducing ourselves, Karen mentioned my connection with the University's sailing team, and the woman, Katy Arvesen, lit up. "My brothers started the team! My maiden name is Driessen." I could have cried, I met someone who knew the original founders, not only that, but someone related. She told me about their team shirts, how Martha Lopez-Tolsa and one of Katy's brothers got married, and so much more.

No longer buzzing, my mind was swarming with information. I never knew so many people from our team's past were still reachable, around, and curious about what we're up to now. Our alumni are important to us because they've been where we are, because they've been through the struggles of starting a team, and because they've shown us it's possible. As a history major, I learn a lot about how life was and how it can be, but never have I seen history, one close to me, come to life the way this one has.

Stay updated with our upcoming adventures by following @ustsailing on Instagram, by liking UST Sailing on Facebook, and by joining our Facebook "Supporters" group.

Written by Livia Wagner, USTST's Merchandise Coordinator

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