Collegiate Sailing: Best Friends and Competitors

Josselyn Verutti and Olivia Beers, both Kirby Class of ’17, are best friends from Kirby School and share a love of sailing. They now compete against one another at the collegiate level.

Josselyn started learning how to sail in the Santa Cruz Yacht Club’s junior sailing program with her best friend Olivia Beers when they were eight. They both fell in love with the wind and water immediately.

At Kirby, Josselyn and Olivia started the Sailing Team in their freshman year, and were co-captains all through high school. They competed in races nearly every month, representing Kirby against schools from all across the Monterey and San Francisco Bay Areas.

After graduating from Kirby, Josselyn went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study Architectural Engineering. She knew she wanted to sail in college, but because of her difficult major she was concerned about balancing the rigor while pursuing her passion. Luckily, she attends a school with excellent academics which also offers sailing. Cal Poly Sailing has a club team which is not coached.

Olivia matriculated at UCSB, and is a member of their sailing team. Although also a club team, UCSB’s team is bigger, and they offer both a Women’s and Co-Ed teams as well as coaching. Last year, Olivia sailed for the Women’s Team, qualifying for and attending Women’s Nationals.

The Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference consists of about twenty teams from across California and Hawaii, including Cal Poly, Stanford, UCSB, University of Hawaii, Cal Berkeley, UCSD, UCLA, USC, UCSC, UC Davis and others. They attend races regularly throughout the school year, sailing in two-person, 14-foot sailboats. These races lead up to a qualifying race in the spring which decides the top four teams that will go on to the College Sailing Nationals. College sailing is made up of two main parts: Co-Ed and Women’s, therefore having separate qualifiers and Nationals for each. Cal Poly has been ranked fifth the past few years in both Co-Ed and Women’s; they’d never qualified for Nationals.

This past year, the Co-Ed qualifiers were held in Hawaii. Josselyn and other members of her team were chosen to represent Cal Poly at the qualifiers, and compete for a spot at Co-Ed Nationals!

The scores were constantly shifting throughout the two day event. Cal Poly was right on the edge between fourth and fifth place throughout the weekend. Going into the last set of races, the top three spots were held by Stanford, UCSB and Cal Berkeley. Cal Poly and University of Hawaii were tightly competing for the fourth spot. It came down to the last race. Josselyn and one of her teammates sailed the last leg, which would decide who advanced. It wasn’t until after the race, as they sailed into the dock, and they saw their team cheering that they knew they clenched it: Cal Poly qualified for the College Sailing Nationals for the first time ever!

Josselyn and her team went on to compete at Nationals at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Their accomplishment, securing a spot at Nationals to compete against talented, well-funded and coached teams was an honor and gave them a new goal to reach.

Josselyn notes, “This was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life. Sailing is so much more than just being on the water and traveling to new places, one of the best parts is meeting new people and spending weekends away with them and really becoming a family. Sailing has always been a part of mine and Olivia’s lives and we were so fortunate to participate in the sport throughout high school and continue that now in college.”