A Small Boat Makes the Sailor

by Teresa Lynch

Dan sailing solo. Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

Dan sailing solo. Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

When he was eight, Dan Levy started sailing at a summer camp held by a local yacht club in Fort Lauderdale. Ft. Lauderdale, where Dan grew up, is known as the “Venice of the South” and lauds more canals and boats per capita than any place in the world. That made it an ideal place, Dan’s parents thought, for getting him involved in the sport.

Sailing, Dan said, was an incredibly competitive enterprise among the youth (and parents) involved. But, even on into his teenage years, the competitiveness of sailing kept him excited about the sport. After the youth sailing camps, Dan continued with the sport in a club series environment and on into high school. From fifth to ninth grade, he travelled for regattas two to three weekends a month and practiced several days a week. Although the sport consumed a great deal of his time, Dan says it gave him the opportunity to see much of his home state as well as a significant portion of the country.

Additionally, sailing has been incredibly formative for him. He recalled being around ten years old, alone in his boat, and far enough out on the ocean that he couldn’t see shore. Nor could his family see him. “My grandfather turned to my dad and said, ‘You have a rope tied to him, right?’ And my dad said, ‘Nope.’” Dan said with a laugh, “I had a flare and a whistle.” But, he also said he believes that sailing instilled him with independence, confidence and resourcefulness.

Dan and his teammate sailing. Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

Dan and his teammate sailing. Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

Around fifteen, Dan missed the qualifications for the U.S. national sailing team, instead gaining the right to practice with them as an alternate, but he felt it was time to take a step back from the sport. Some of his friends went on to make the team, he says, and just competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. When he went to college at the University of Florida, Dan picked sailing back up, joining Florida’s racing team. “It became very fraternal for me, I made all my best friends through that team and we travelled all across the country…it was a great social experience for me.”

Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

Photo courtesy of Dan Levy.

Now, Dan coaches here at IU for the sailing team. He says that although the team has been around for more than twenty years, it’s been within the last three or four years that the team has been gaining momentum. Practices take place on Lake Lemon and Dan is hoping to take them down to Florida for a regatta soon. The coaching opportunity has been great for Dan to reconnect with his love for sailing, both getting to sail himself and entering back into the world of sailing. Two weekends ago, he attended a boat show in Chicago on behalf of the team to learn the ropes in this district, although he says he really enjoyed it personally because he got to reconnect with old friends, as well.

Dan says he hopes eventually to buy his own larger sail boat for taking people out. When I asked him if sailing larger boats was more difficult, Dan said “You know, one of my favorite quotes is from the movie Wind and it’s ‘The big boats get all the glory, but the small boat makes the sailor.’ I love that line because it’s so true…the science, the mechanics are all the same. But, there’s something great about being in a smaller boat and being in the midst of nature. There’s a closeness to the water, it’s quiet, and you’re just out there. I think the best thing is that you’re just harnessing something so natural and powerful.”

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