Unconventional sports, Ari Borut (12): Sailing


Clara Stevanovic, Staff Writer

This Wednesday afternoon, Ari Borut (12) was out on the Long Island sound, trapezing and cutting through the water on her C-420 racing boat. Borut is a long-time competitive sailing racer. She often gets home from her boating club late at night, but still loves going to sailing practice and pushing herself. “It’s exhausting, but also super fun, and that makes it all worth it,” Borut said. 

At the age of nine, Borut began to windsurf near her house at Martha’s Vineyard, where she has been going every summer since she was young. Borut’s house, a few blocks from the ocean, offers a clear view of sailors and windsurfers gliding across the surrounding harbor. Watching the sailors inspired Borut to windsurf and sail herself. “I was like, that looks cool, I really want to try it,” Borut said. 

When she turned nine, Borut began taking private windsurfing lessons. She began taking sailing classes a year later, since classes at Martha’s Vineyard were only offered to ten year olds. She was immediately drawn to windsurfing and sailing after beginning lessons. “I just really fell in love with it and started sailing other boats from there,” Borut said.

Initially, windsurfing was difficult for Borut. “I remember just crying on my windsurfing board because it can be so physically intense, but eventually you learn to love it once you start mastering different skills,” she said.  

By the age of 12, Borut began to take sailing more seriously. Borut continues to windsurf for fun, but chose to focus on sailing competitively, because the majority of high school and college level competitions involve sailing.

Even during the school year, Borut sails frequently and practices when she gets home from school. She sails three times per week from September to October, March to May, and 20 hours each week during the summer. “I’m out on the water for six hours with no break. When I do that, it is definitely a lot,” Borut said. 

In her off-season, Borut watches Youtube videos of people sailing and reads books about the wind to improve her performance and better understand the mechanics of the sport. “You definitely have to get the physical aspect down, but the tactics that you learn outside of the boat are just as important,” she said. 

Even though Borut has been sailing for years, it can sometimes be difficult to manage both schoolwork and sailing. “Sometimes I feel really sore, and I just want to take a nap after practice,” Borut said. “At first I had a hard time, because of the amount of work I got, especially during the spring of 10th grade. But over time, I figured out how to balance [sailing and schoolwork],” she said. 

Borut now considers sailing practice to be a break from her school work. When she is on the water, Borut focuses on sailing and does not think of anything else. “I just focus on figuring out how I can be the fastest person on the water,” she said.  Borut’s passion for sailing drives her to persevere and practice regularly. “Every race is completely different — I never get bored of it,” she said.

Over the summer, Borut won sixth place in a two-day regatta, or sailing competition, called the Beverly Junior Regatta.  The race had been challenging for Borut and her sailing partner. “On the second day, I didn’t do as well as I did the first day, and my partner and I started getting frustrated at each other,” she said. As a result of their frustration, it became difficult for Borut and her partner to concentrate on sailing and remain focused during their races. “It was something we had to overcome. We realized that if we continued being mad at each other, our boat was not going to be able to go fast,” Borut said. “You can’t get caught up in your head, because then you won’t be able to focus on your next race,” Borut said. 

Borut is a skipper, meaning she steers the boat and controls the main sail while her crew trims in the jib, the sail at the front of the boat. A move that has been especially difficult for her to master is reaching with the spinnaker, a third sail that is set when the boat is going downwind or perpendicular to the wind. “It is a really hard skill,” she said. Borut steers while her crew members counterbalance the tipping boat by leaning off of one side, attached by bungee cords called the trapeze. 

Borut compares this skill to roll tacking, where sailors intentionally tip and flatten a boat while turning so it sails much faster. “It is difficult because if you don’t do the timing correctly, you end up actually slowing your boat down,” Borut said. 

Each year, starting from the age of 13, Borut participates in an annual all-girls regatta, called the Gill Trophy. “I got dead last the first time I ever sailed it, but I kept on going back every year. And then during the summer of 2021, I ended up winning it,” she said. Winning the competition was a moment of great joy and excitement for her. “It demonstrated to me how far I’d come. It was like a full circle moment for me.”

Sailing has taught Borut many personal lessons. “To get a skill down, you have to spend a lot of time and realize that it’s not going to be immediate. You really have to just push yourself,” she said.