The UVM Sailing Team Stays Afloat

“The sailing team is easily recognizable as one of the most committed, dedicated, and competitive organizations on campus,” as boasted on the sailing website- and it truly is. The team of about 35 active members trains between four and five days per week with full-time head coach, Justin Assad. Over the past decade the team has grown tremendously. In 1996 they hired a full time coach and by the time he left in 2001, the team was nationally ranked and recruiting some of the best sailors in New England. After he left, however, the team experienced a period with no recruiting and a much lower level of commitment. Since that stage, with the dedicated coaching of Justin Assad, the team has reached a new, higher level of competition and success. This spring season has been a great example of that triumph. After competing in numerous regattas in Boston, Rhode Island and Connecticut, the team is currently ranked 14 out of 44. That rank is only enhanced by the fact that the top 11 in that ranking are also ranked among the top 20 teams in the country. This weekend, the team is competing in The Moody Trophy at University of Rhode Island and although has made a few big mistakes that will affect the outcome of the event, it is “definitely serving as growing experience for the upcoming races,” says Assad. The upcoming races that Assad is referring to are the Boston Dingy Cup and even more prestigious, the freshmen Priddy Trophy hosted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Both of these races are sure to show off Assad’s efforts in building not only a nationally ranked team, but also a team that recruits the most sought after sailors in the country. Currently, the sailing team has recruited 12 (and are expecting 18) to attend UVM strictly because of their desire to sail. Four of these recruits are the top sailing recruits in New England and they are coming to UVM. Sailors like these come to UVM because unlike the other top schools, if they commit to the team and practice, they’ll get to sail in their first year. Over 60 high school seniors have contacted Assad about their interest in sailing. One would have to be blind not to see the amount of acclaim and interest the sailing team generates for UVM, yet this year the SGA sliced the funding for a coach in half. The cut seems illogical to some due to the fact that the team has done so well and puts UVM’s name out there like no other club sport can. The team competes in over 80 events throughout its two-seasoned year and is ranked third most active team in the nation. It recruits the kind of students schools like to have – its been proven that college sailors have the highest graduation rates and highest GPAs. Why then would a school want to risk losing a team like this? Especially since UVM is hosting the New England Singlehand Championships next fall and has just purchased a new fleet of the premier college racing boats. The answer to that question escapes both the team and its supporters. The team, however, is not going down without a fight and plans to raise around 36,000 dollars through alum donations, five separate fundraisers and by running a clinic for local high school sailors. When asked if Justin will be returning despite the major decrease in coach funding, he replied, “there has been way too much commitment on the side of the students, and I’m not going to walk away from that without having tried every single way to make this work. They have done everything that I’ve asked of them to bring our team to the top echelons of sailing.”