Blake Oberbauer is raising the sails and expectations

Gliding through the Bay waters at seven years old, Blake Oberbauer gets a feel for the boat. (Photo courtesy of Blake Oberbauer)

Sophomore Blake Oberbauer describes sailing as being part of her life for as long as she can remember. Since elementary school, Oberbauer has dedicated multiple hours to the sport throughout the week. Oberbauer strives to improve her techniques, unveiling her passion for sailing as she raises the expectations of what it means to be a dedicated athlete.

At the age of seven, Oberbauer was lifting the sails at the San Francisco Yacht Club summer camp and began to compete in an Optimist, a sailboat for one sailor.

“I actually didn’t like sailing for a long time; my parents would force me to go and I would be crying on Saturday night because I knew that I had to go sailing on Sunday,” Oberbauer said.

Oberbauer was first introduced to sailing by her parents, who owned a boat and competed in a regattas. Oberbauer’s mother, Julia Cashin, explored the importance of the sport in their family. 

“[Oberbauer’s] father and I are such big sailors, and we do a lot of sailboat racing. It’s just part of what we do. It wasn’t an option [for Oberbauer] to not at least know how to sail,” Cashin said. “[She] didn’t have to love it, but needed to at least know [her] way around the boat.”

Thus, Oberbauer and her parents have raced together for years. Her first regatta took place on the lap of her parents at just five months old. Even throughout the pandemic, Oberbauer and her family still managed to practice their craft.

“One of my favorite times recently [sailing with Oberbauer] was during the pandemic when there weren’t as many regattas happening. She steered our boat on a Bay tour [regatta], leaving from Marin and we raced all around Angel Island. It was a long day, she drove the entire race and it was just our family. It was pretty neat to see her be able to do that,” Cashin said.

Due to the technical nature of sailing, many hours spent sailing can be time-consuming and mentally draining. This stress and exhaustion led Oberbauer to quit the sport in fifth grade. However, she had a chance to center her thoughts and realize that the sport would always be on her mind. 

“I begged and begged [to sail again] for about a year and a half,” Oberbauer said. 

Oberbauer’s parents were hesitant at first, wanting to make sure that she wouldn’t strain herself with the responsibility and devote all her time to something she wasn’t interested in.

“It is a big commitment in a lot of ways and we wanted to make sure that if we were going to reinvest all of this time and energy into [sailing] that it was something that she was really going to commit to. She was persistent and showed that her heart was in it again and she has not wavered since,” Cashin said.

Oberbauer is now part of the Redwood sailing team, as well as part of the High Performance Center in Paradise Cay. Now, most of Oberbauer’s time outside of school is spent in the Bay, at the wheel of a sailboat. Last fall Oberbauer went to practices five days a week, 4-8 p.m. on weekdays and 11-5 p.m. on weekends. 

Recently switching from single-handling an Optimist to driving a C420 (a two-person dinghy), Oberbauer is learning the skills of double-handling. Getting used to the feel of a new boat this past year proved difficult, but she soon figured it out.

Smiling for the camera, sophomore Blake Oberbauer looks ahead to the future.

“There’s a whole mental game going on,” Oberbauer said. “It’s all about combining speed with making the right decisions on where to go and [finding] the best place on the race course to put your boat so that it can go even faster than the other [sailors].” 

According to Oberbauer’s teammate and current freshman on the sailing team, Rhett Krawitt, she seems to have these strategies understood.

“With double-handed boats, you have to find someone that’s good to sail with, and [Oberbauer] is definitely one of them,” Krawitt said. “[Oberbauer’s] always pushing to be better than her last race and she’s always trying to push the boat.”

Cashin admires her daughter’s progress and dedication to sailing over the years and is optimistic that the mentality of the sport won’t become too overbearing for Oberbauer.

“I hope she doesn’t burn out because she has been doing so much sailing, but she seems to love it, so that’s great … I just hope she enjoys it for the rest of her life recreationally,” Cashin said.

Oberbauer’s passion for sailing is not wavering and likely will not for a long while.

“My goal is to eventually get good enough to go to international regattas in C420s … As an adult, I want to hopefully have my [future] family sail and keep sailing like my parents,” Oberbauer said.

Oberbauer has been hard at work this last winter, training for I420 midwinters in Florida, as her team’s qualifying points will decide their fate to attend the 2024 Youth World Championship in Brazil next January.