Start Sailing Now: Donna Colaco

Dinghies, keelboats, racing, and bareboat cruising in the BVI, all in one year! Tell us about how you got into sailing. I grew up in Houston, TX, around powerboats on the Gulf of Mexico; however, I was never exposed to sailing. I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1996 for college and ended up staying in the city for work. That is when I learned about sailing at DC Sail. SSNDonnaColaco_imageDid you have any preconceived notions about sailing that proved true or untrue? Coming from an Indian-American family, I didn’t really have any preconceived notion about sailing, except that it was perhaps one of those sports, like skiing and golf, reserved for the more affluent. I am now a member of two community sailing organizations, DC Sail and the Downtown Sailing Club (DSC) in Baltimore, and have observed people from all walks of life who sail. I am happy to see that people from different cultures, such as myself, are starting to sail, which is adding to more diversity. What has been your sailing experience thus far, and what are your future plans? I first learned to sail in 2006 at the age of 28 in Washington, D.C., on Flying Scots with DC Sail. From 2008 until 2014, there was a lull in sailing as I pursued my interest in capoeira angola, an afro-brazilian martial art. This past year, in order to diversify my interests, I decided to get back on the water and re-focus on sailing. In April, I took a refresher class at DC Sail and it really felt like I was starting over again. I was determined to get as much experience as possible while the weather was warm and went sailing regularly at the member and social sails during the weekdays and rentals on the weekend. In June I took an FJ class and started racing dinghies, and that’s where I really caught the sailing bug. Racing brought in a new level of boat handling, sail trim, and wind awareness along with strategy, tactics, and of course, the shear motivation to win. In order to hone my sailing skills for a variety of conditions, locations and boats, I ventured to Baltimore and took the Basic Keelboat class at the DSC in July. The keelboat class was great, and I got to know the sailing community in Baltimore. I started sailing J/22s at Member Sails and Fun Racing at DSC, so at a certain point I was sailing five to six times a week. I also sailed on 420s at the Baltimore County Sailing Center during their corn roasts and Round the Island Race. Altogether, I logged over 78 days on the water in 2014. I participated in my first regattas last year at Cantina Cup in August in DC and Ya Gotta Regatta in September, and the Constellation Cup in October in Baltimore. I also skippered my first regatta in October at DC Sail’s Halloween regatta. To top it off, I took a bareboat cruising class with my brother and father in the British Virgin Islands on a Beneteau 51 in November, so 2014 was a great sailing year for me. And, I introduced my family to sailing! My next goal would be to get more experience on cruisers and sailing longer distances. I aspire to join SpinSheet’s Century club in 2015. I’ve been following the Volvo Ocean Race and am really inspired to sail across the ocean one day and perhaps around the world. If someone were interested in learning to sail, what would you tell them? If you like the challenge of combining the outdoors with the physical and intellectual demands of leveraging a boat in changing elements, I’d say go for it. Plus, there is always the chance that you may go for a swim. Do you own a boat or dream of owning one? I would like to work towards owning a boat some day. I would like to get more experience on different boats and sailing conditions and when the time is right, find my boat avatar. Did you encounter any obstacles or barriers when you began sailing? When you capsize a dinghy the first few times or foul someone during a race, it can be really discouraging. Getting warning signals from a commercial vessel is definitely daunting. But this is all part of the learning process. You pick yourself up (or dry yourself off), learn from your mistakes, and keep on sailing. That is the only way to get better at anything in life.