Holtum getting a kick out of yachting | PostIndependent.com

Holtum getting a kick out of yachting

Photo Courtesy of Terry EwbankGlenwood native Ashley Holtum (standing) and teammates Raynor Smeal (front) and Sharon Ferris sail their yacht as members of Team Inspiration, a New Zealand Olympic-hopeful squad.

She has transformed from Demon soccer player to an Olympic-hopeful sailor. In a whirlwind year, 2002 Glenwood Springs graduate Ashley Holtum went from being an average student at the University of Denver to a member of Team Inspiration, a three-woman yachting team in New Zealand, where she now lives. The change was an unexpected one, even to Holtum.”It was sort of by accident,” Holtum said about her Team Inspiration invitation.It happened last January after Holtum’s parents had moved from Glenwood Springs to New Zealand. They had a housewarming party where Holtum began talking to two-time New Zealand Olympic sailor and Team Inspiration skipper Sharon Ferris.

“I started talking to Sharon (Ferris), and I was just joking with her and I said, ‘Will you teach me how to sail?’ and she actually took me up on it. We went out a few times and she asked me to be on the team.”With one year of school remaining before she could receive her double major in criminology and Italian, Holtum accepted the offer. When Holtum told her family and friends of her new sailing life, she was surprised and delighted by their reactions.”The best part of this experience has been how supportive people are, not just to me, but for the whole team,” Holtum said. “When I told people, no one ever told me I was crazy or that I couldn’t do it. They were shocked, but they have always been encouraging, and they really care about the team.”So Holtum turned her focus toward sailing, as it was something she didn’t know much about, especially when it came to taking the helm.”My dad had a yacht, and I used to go out on it, but I would literally just sit there,” Holtum said. “I didn’t know anything about sailing.”Racing in Ynglings, which are fast, three-person yachts, Holtum began training as the bowman of Team Inspiration. Learning from her teammates and different coaches, Holtum spending hours sailing in New Zealand and European waters.

“Yachting is really exciting. Every time I go out, I learn something new,” Holtum said. “I don’t know if that’s kind of because I didn’t know anything before or because you just learn something every time you go out in yachting.”In just under a year’s time, she has learned a lot and fit nicely as a member of Team Inspiration.”Sometimes the skipper can just do something and we all know what to do without her saying anything. We can just read each other,” Holtum said. “It is really challenging working with three people on one boat, especially three females in really close contact and making it all work. When it does, it makes it exciting.” During her inaugural year of sailing, she has helped Team Inspiration garner multiple awards including Far North Sportsperson of the Year, Northland Team of the Year, National Merit Award from the Royal New Zealand Yachting Squadron and Northland Regional Council Sailor of the Year. But its most prized accomplishment came last July when the team finished second in the Yngling World Championships in Austria. The finish netted all three members of the team spots on the New Zealand Olympic Yachting team. Although they were named to the team, they will have to re-qualify for the squad each year preceding the 2008 Olympics. They can only do so by continuing to finish in the top 10 at the World Championships, or by finishing in the top eight of the European Championships.For Holtum, it is the perfect finish of a life-altering year.

“(This year) was very intense. It went by really fast, and I can’t believe it is already over,” Holtum said. “It’s been really great. I feel very privileged to be able to do this and travel all over the world.”Outside of sailing, Holtum continues to study at DU through correspondence classes and has five more to go before she can graduate.”I might finish in this next year, but it depends on how intense our schedule is,” Holtum said.By the looks of it, that could be a difficult task. As soon as 2006 kicks off, the team will set out on a nine-country tour, beginning in the United States and going back to New Zealand before starting its European circuit in late March. They will conclude the European season with an Olympic pre-regatta in China. The travel-heavy schedule will keep her busy, but it is a part of her life that she likes.”I miss my family a lot when we are traveling all the time, but it is still exciting to travel and see really cool places.”

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