A team for all

A unique sport creates a unique community


Photo by Allison Treanor

Preparing for a race on Oct. 8, Clayton DeBruyn (9) participates in the cider cup home regatta at Lake Lansing.

Clayton DeBryun (9) started sailing during COVID because the summer activities he usually participated in were shut down. Summer sailing camps could still be open because they were outside. But what was supposed to be an activity to fill time ended up being a sport that he would pursue into high school.
“I went there for a few weeks and I really enjoyed it.” DeBryun said. “And then I just kept coming back and eventually joined the team.”
Having never sailed before, the team was a great place for him to start something new. DeBryun enjoyed the supportive community of the small team, and recommends sailing to anyone interested in trying a new sport.
“I think it’s really fun and it’s a good skill to have and a lot of people could benefit from it,” DeBryun said.

Unlike DeBryun, who was new to sailing when he joined the team, William Severin (9) has been sailing since he was in third grade. Severins’ grandfather, who taught him how to sail, inspired him to join the team and sail competitively. He would sail on Wednesday nights and weekends at the club. When he joined the team, he received a warm welcome from the members.
“For people starting, this community is very good,” Severin said. “Like if you go to the club, anyone will teach you how to sail.”
Severin has had many memorable experiences with the sailing team, his favorite being a competition in Spring Lake that ended last year’s season. Since the season goes late into November, the weather conditions were more extreme. This specific competition took place while it was snowing, which made it more exciting and memorable for Severin.
“We ended up getting third overall.” Severin said. “It was a really cool experience. It was really cold and the food there was really good.”

Michael Cyrul (11) has been competing with the team for six years. He was inspired by his dad who taught him how to sail. Coming into high school and joining the team continued his passion for sailing. He really enjoyed being able to sail with his teammates and people around him. For Cyrul, the team has mostly been about having fun.
“It’s been so nice just to get such a close relationship with all the people on the team,” Cyrul said.
Cyrul has also really enjoyed the close-knit community of the team. The small size of the team has allowed the members to connect with one another. He described the team as a welcoming and friendly environment, especially for beginners or people new to the sport.
“It’s very easy to join,” Cyrul said. “Everyone is just there to help out. It’s very fun and quite simple to pick up, at least the basics.”

East Lansing trains with other schools in the region such as Bath, Okemos, Lansing Everett and Lansing Catholic. This unique joining of schools sets the sailing team apart from many other sports teams in the school. Team members from East Lansing, like Cyrul, have formed relationships with students from other schools. At races, everyone eats and spends time with one another when they’re not racing, which is different from other sports where the teams competing are usually separated.
“It’s nice because you always see the same people from the other teams at the different races,” Cyrul said. “So eventually you start to get to know them. You can talk with them out in the water and when you come back in. So you make a lot of new friends.”

Michael Kovalchick (12) joined the team his freshman year. Like many others on the team, he started sailing during the summer with classes at Lake Lansing. He really enjoyed it and eventually became more involved with the team. Kovalchick thought the sport was lots of fun when he first joined and interesting because it’s not as known and not many people do it. Something that really stuck out to him about the team is how open and helpful they are to newcomers.
“I think one really big thing is some of us knew how to sail coming into the team,” Kovalchick says. “There’s also other people that just showed up, never knowing how to sail. It doesn’t matter what your experiences are or how much or little you know. People will teach you.”

Most recently, the East Lansing team has qualified for a Tier two regatta in Chicago, IL, which they will compete in Nov. 12-13, the furthest level of competition the team can go.

“As a team, we’re really excited to go, because this is such a unique opportunity,” DeBruyn said. “We never expected to get to this level, so the fact that in a few weeks we’ll be heading to the championship is awesome.”

Allison Treanor contributed to additional reporting.