Last month, Solvig Sayre of Vineyard Haven graduated from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla.. Sayre, a skipper on the Eckerd sailing team, competed in her last college race at the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Associate championships and helped the Tritons to an 11th place finish.
With her college sailing career finished, Sayre is now in Maryland focusing her efforts on a different incarnation of the sport: windsurfing. And her goal is not the Chesapeake Bay, but Rio de Janeiro, where she hopes to compete in the Olympics in 2016.
Windsurfing falls under the broad spectrum of sailing at the Olympics and athletes sail the same courses as the sailors with boats, so her college experience has been a boon to staying in shape.
“Sailboat racing is similar enough that it keeps my brain sharp — how the boats go, how the wind is,” she said. The rule book is the same, she said, just with an appendix for windsurfing.
Windsurfing is in Sayre’s blood: her parents, Nevin and Stina Sayre, first met while on the professional windsurfing circuit. But as a toddler, Sayre had to be bribed into getting on a windsurfer for the first time (ice cream helped). And although she enjoyed the sport and did it “here and there,” she didn’t start thinking about competition until the Sayres hosted a group of windsurfers from Bonaire. The passion the Bonaire group had for windsurfing sold her on the sport. Her father suggested she try for the Olympics.
“The international level is very, very high, but there aren’t many people trying in the United States,” Sayre said. “So I started to race.” That was six years ago when she was still in high school. As a senior, she was the number-two ranked American woman, and by 2012 had advanced to the point where she was the American alternate for the Olympics. Only two windsurfers — one male, one female — can compete for their country in the event.
Since landing the alternate spot, Sayre has moved up in the international rankings. Two years ago at the Miami Olympics Class Regatta, she placed eighth overall. Races take place over five days, with the final day featuring the top sailors.
“It was really exciting to be in the top 10 and be in the medal race,” she said. It also was the first time she had competed with help from a private coach.
Coaching and travel expenses add up quickly for Sayre, who gets help with fundraising through the Vineyard Sailing Foundation. That helps pay for the trips, but she is responsible for paying for her coach and living expenses while abroad. Expenses have increased this year, since she is now an international training partner with Quebec’s windsurfing team (she’ll continue to represent the United States in competition).
“I go back and forth to Canada and travel around with them,” she said. “I’ve worked with [the team] a bunch, and I’m excited.”
Windsurfing is a sport with a constant learning curve, but that’s part of what she enjoys the most.
“I love that I can be pushed so hard, and I can push myself,” she said. “I’m out there with the wind and water, and I’m holding the power of the wind. It’s so direct.”
For information on Solvig Sayre’s Olympic windsurfing campaign, visit facebook.com/SolvigSayre.