Commitment, spirit, guidance define senior sailor

SAILING+SAVANT.+Senior+Eli+Erling+peers+over+the+edge+of+a+sailboat+at+practice+on+Oct.+5.+Eli%E2%80%99s%0Ateammates+described+him+as+a+spirited+motivator+and+a+hard-worker.

Chloe Ma

SAILING SAVANT. Senior Eli Erling peers over the edge of a sailboat at practice on Oct. 5. Eli’s teammates described him as a spirited motivator and a hard-worker.

Erich Raumann, Reporter

A traditional image of sailing might be big yachts, fast boats and the wind in their hair. But to senior Eli Erling, sailing is so much more — it’s miles-long races, frigid practice in drysuits, spending late hours rigging, docking, undocking and derigging, or corralling a group of children who share his love for the sport. 

From the dramatic moments of exhilaration and adrenaline to the drudgery of preparation and clean-up behind the scenes, Eli is an ambitious, committed member of the sailing community. What sets Eli apart from his teammates at U-High is his unwavering enthusiasm and contagious optimism. Whether he is the skipper or crew, Eli insists on doing everything to the best of his ability and with a smile. 

“Eli has to be the most spirited person on the team,” said senior Benjamin Luu, the varsity sailing captain. “He’s very enthusiastic about everything, and is very good at motivating people. When Eli and I sail together, we do very well.”

He’s very enthusiastic about everything, and is very good at motivating people.”

— Benjamin Luu

Eli joined the U-High sailing team in ninth grade, but he’s been on boats in one way or another since he was in fifth grade. He started out as a camper at the Chicago Park District and the Jackson Park Yacht Club, and he eventually worked his way up to being a full-time sailing instructor for the Jackson Park Yacht Club. 

“Teaching sailing has been really interesting for me,” Eli said. “I had to learn how to manage a bunch of kids. When I was doing the course I was like, ‘Yeah! I get to teach kids sailing!’ What you don’t realize is that the teaching part is a lot bigger than the sailing part.”

While Eli admits that teaching other kids sailing wasn’t what he expected, he is grateful for the opportunity it gives him to improve himself and others. 

“I think I’m doing my part in showing other children my love for sailing,” Eli said, “and I think it has really taught me a lot about how to push through adversity and stay independent running my group.”

There is this kind of singular focus that sailing gives me, just being the master of your own fate. I command this ship. Wherever I go is wherever I go.”

— Eli Erling

Eli is also adamant about going the extra mile on land, always willing to help people out with the less glamorous, menial work which goes on in the background of the sport. 

“He’s very hardworking,” said Bryan Pan, a junior on U-High’s varsity sailing team. “He always does a lot of the manual labor, he helps pull the boats up out of the water when other people don’t want to.” 

An excellent team player both at Lab and his yacht club, Eli’s love for sailing comes from a surprising place: the opportunity for individualism and self-reliance it offers him.

“The one thing that keeps drawing me back to sailing is how personal it is,” Eli said. “There is this kind of singular focus that sailing gives me, just being the master of your own fate. I command this ship. Wherever I go is wherever I go.”