Jelani Scott | Sports Editor
Battling against the likes of Columbia, Villanova, Syracuse and the University of Maryland is an opportunity that not many of Hampton’s athletic programs has the chance to do. For the Sailing Team , however, they were able to not only compete against but also defeat all four of these schools, as well as 13 others, en route to their first place finish at the Henry Luce Trophy Regatta in October. Over the last couple years, HU’s Sailing Team, the only co-ed Division I team on-campus, has quietly been reaping the benefits of their hard work. In the last seven seasons, head coach Alessandro Ambrosi has led the program to 18 regatta wins
It’s no secret that Hampton, Virginia is not exactly the place for ideal competitive sailing conditions but that has not stopped the team from finishing in the top-10 in six of their seven regattas this season. Last season, the team won seven regattas and made history as the first HBCU to ever qualify for the College Sailing Nationals, which took place in San Diego, California from May 31 to June 3. The team was able to achieve this goal by placing ninth in the America Trophy regatta in Bronx, New York, held from April 30-May 1. Skipper Luca Taglialegne is one of the five holdovers from that historic team. The sophomore five-year MBA major from Latisano, Italy sat down with us to discuss what being a part of the program has been like, how he’s able to balance sailing and school and his message to the student body.
Jelani Scott: Describe what your individual experience, as well as the ones you have with your teammates and coaches, has been like since you joined the team?
Luca Taglialegne: My experience as a member of the team has been positive, joining the team gave me the opportunity to make many new friends and to travel to many new places. Thankfully, my coach and I come from the same country so this made it very easy for me to get along with him and to understand how our culture affects his coaching style. Also, I like my coach because he understands that we are both athletes and students, therefore while practices are sometimes tough and very demanding he excuses us during stressful occasions like mid-terms and finals. The team, along with coach, is very close and we aspire to always do our best and to keep improving everyday so that we may achieve results never before seen in Hampton sailing history.
JS: How does your experience with Hampton’s team compare to your past sailing experiences?
LT: Before coming to Hampton, I sailed on a team that comprised of only one other person. It was difficult to practice with just the two of us so this forced me to practice at a local sailing club. However, while everyone at the club formed a nice group of friends, when it came to races we were all rivals. At Hampton it is different; we practice as a team and compete as a team.
JS: How do you manage to stay on top of your studies while also excelling in competition?
LT: Prioritizing and sacrificing are key elements when it comes to combining studies and sport. It is important to understand what it is required from both and to respect deadlines as well as duties. This means that in order to always stay on top of everything I sometimes have to sacrifice time for sleeping or socializing. However, as stated earlier, when it gets really tough coach understands and adjusts our practice schedule to ensure that our studies never suffer.
JS: Who do you credit the most for the team’s success?
LT: The team’s success comes from our collective motivation and will to improve; we are always trying to achieve better results and to help each other improve. Also, I think that our team captain, Max, is doing an amazing job with respect to pushing us and motivating us. Max is always first in line when it comes to sacrifices and always does his best for the team. I must admit that during the toughest races, many times, he has been a guiding force.
JS: Do you think the Sailing program receives a fair amount of attention from the Athletic Department, the Student Body or the University, in general? (this may be a tough question but answer as honestly as you would like)
LT: Unfortunately, the sport of sailing is not very well known and it is also sometimes difficult for an audience to understand. I think we receive a fair amount of attention from the athletic department. Unfortunately, this is not so for the student body but that is to be expected as most people do not understand the sport which in turn makes it difficult to follow and support.
JS: How does it feel to be a part of a program that was able to make history by becoming the first HBCU to make it to Nationals?
LT: Unfortunately, while we were not able to win Nationals, we were the first HBCU to qualify for Nationals. I must admit that it feels good to be a member of the Hampton team that made sailing history. It feels good because it is a good indication that the sailing program at Hampton is moving in the right direction. Everyone on the team here is so good at what they do. We have proven that we can compete with the top teams even though our team is one of the smallest. I would not want to be a part of any other sailing program.
JS: What is something you want those who aren’t very aware of the Sailing program and your successes to know?
LT: Sailing is a fun sport; it can be enjoyed as a hobby or as a competitive activity. Like every other sport, there are days when everything goes as planned and there are days when nothing goes as planned. However, it is an activity in which you can really connect with nature and it gives you big sense of freedom, where the only limit is the vastness of the sea. So, if anyone is interested in learning how to sail, it is offered as a class here at Hampton. Try it, you might like it!