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Posted on June 23, 2017 at 10:15 AM by Ben Schorzman
The Eugene Rec veterans sailing team entered the 2017 sailing season as the defending champion of its class.
On the eve of its first outing on the water, the team and the sailing program received a generous gift that pushed spirits even higher.
Local sailor Matt Sprick donated his Wavelength 24 racing sailboat to the veterans sailing program, giving the crew a boat of its own for the first time.
“I don’t know if my feet were touching,” boat captain Doug Smith said after receiving the news from Eugene Rec senior programmer Roger Bailey. “I had to pinch myself. I was smiling all day after Roger called me.”
Last season the veterans sailed on a borrowed boat during its races against Eugene Yacht Club members on Fern Ridge Reservoir. The team coalesced well and bonded to a degree many were skeptical of at the beginning of the year. But by the end they were winning races and opening up off the water with members of the club over burgers and beers.
“The vets were welcomed with open arms there,” Smith said.
Now they have a boat to call their own thanks to Sprick, who said he donated it because it was just going to sit for another season while he rehabs a knee injury. After reading crew member Clifford Lyon’s open letter about his experience on the team last summer, Sprick was moved to donate.
“It was touching to see the level of impact the program had on the veterans last year,” Sprick said. “I think it’s a great program.”
And now that the racing season is kicking off the vets are looking at another good year. Smith said there was so much interest, there were more people than spots on the boat. They haven’t come up with a name yet, though.
“We’ve kicked some names around,” he said, “but my feeling is let’s just call it the Vet Boat because everyone is just going to call it that anyway.”
No matter what they call it, Sprick said he just wants to get back out on the water next year and race against the vets.
“I’m looking forward to rejoining the fleet and I’m going to look forward to racing against them,” he said. “I just hope that I’m looking back at the front end of it instead of the back end.”
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