Gone, with the wind
July 31, 2009
By Amy Farnum
If you’re looking for Plattsburgh State women’s tennis head coach Mark Stata in the summertime, you will probably find him sailing on the waters of Lake Champlain near his home in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
Stata bought a house on the lake almost 20 years ago, and had been active participant in water sports in his youth, but had never been on a sailboat.
“Lake Champlain is a fairly large fresh water lake – about 112 miles long and seven to 10 miles across – so we have a great body of water to enjoy here,” said Stata. “I had grown up on power boats water skiing, but it tends to be pretty windy on this part of the peninsula, so I thought maybe when I can’t ski, maybe I should have something I can sail when it’s windy.”
Stata, who has been at the helm of the Plattsburgh women’s tennis program for the last six years, kind of stumbled into competitive sailing after buying his own sailboat.
“The previous owner took me for a sail, and he happened to be in the racing club that had raced the boat in the past, and he invited me to go out and start racing with them,” said Stata. “The next year or so I went out and tried it. He told me I would learn how to sail a lot faster if you’re racing because you’re around a lot of people who know how to sail very well.”
After several years of involvement in the sport, Stata is on his third sailboat, upgrading from his original 21-foot vessel to a 29-foot boat and is an active member of the local sailing club that competes at least two days a week during the summer months.
“I never had trouble making the boat go in the direction I wanted it to go – it was very intuitive to me, but it is hard to make a boat go very fast,” said Stata. “There are a lot of little tricks and observations about strategy you need to know.”
Stata has been a part of two winning teams in his division at Lake Champlain’s Mayor’s Cup Regatta. The Mayor’s Cup annually draws 90 to 100 boats from New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Canada.
“Racing sailboats is a little bit like racing snails – it’s not the speed that you’re going that is generally fun to do – it’s more about the teamwork and the power that the wind really has and the way it affects the boat,” said Stata. “We were probably only going about 20 miles per hour in the Mayor’s Cup this year, which is slow by a car speed, but when you’re wondering whether the boat is going to stay up, it’s different.”
When sailing and tennis are not on Stata’s schedule, the Plattsburgh alum keeps busy as an NCAA women’s ice hockey official.
“Sailing is about many things like many other mainstream sports – tennis or basketball or hockey -- that you need good teamwork,” said Stata. “If everyone hasn’t done their job and the boat isn’t ready to go, you’re not going to turn or you’re going to turn slowly. Certainly no different than any other sport, you also have to surround yourself with good people. They help you get better and they help you improve, too.”
Stata plans on participating in the upcoming Soling North American Championships in mid-August, right before the women’s tennis team begins preseason practice, and is toying with the idea of racing at the World Championships in Toronto in September.