UVM club climbs to 6th nationally

As the 2008 season beings, the UVM sailing club will enter their “most competitive season ever,” according to head coach Justin Assad, staring with the Harry Anderson Regatta at Yale on September 13-14.

Despite the fact that they are not a varsity recognized team by UVM Athletics, the College Sailing’s Preseason National Ranking placed the UVM sailing club as 6th in the nation, the highest ranking in the program’s history.

Under the leadership of Assad, who sailed four years at Columbia University and took over the program in 2003, the number of sailors on the team has ballooned to over 40 for the incoming year and the club is competing with the best in the country. The 2008-09 team features one Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-American, sophomore Coco Solsvig, and an All-American honorable mention in sophomore Clinton Hayes.

Assad said that the club’s success is based on a number of different factors. Assad pointed to generous alumni donors and UVM parents for helping to give the team a chance to travel and compete as often as they do — the club is scheduled to atÂtend nearly 80 regattas in 2009. Also, Assad said SGA has been “phenomenal” in supporting the club.

Assad said that despite the club’s lack of official recognition by UVM Athletics, each of his sailors is dedicated to the team as though it were a varsity sport.

“We treat our program like a varsity program,” Assad said. Because college sailing rules prohibit sailors from accepting scholarships based on sailing ability, UVM’s designation as a club does not hurt the team competitively.

“Scholarship rules allow us to compete with other varsity teams,” Assad said. “College sailing is a different discipline in that effect because every season and every regatta we can compete.”

While Assad acknowledged that there is “significant appeal” to becoming a varsity team, he said that the club’s focus right now is “to become as successful as we possibly can as a club sport.”

“I enjoy the challenge with working with a club program, and the attitude and effort my sailors put in means a lot to me,” Assad said. “UVM is a group of kids who refuse to make excuses for themselves.”

While Assad acknowledged that the team has made great headway in improving over the last few years, like any other club or team, the objective is to compete and win, something the club is getting very used to.

“It’s been a great ride so far and I think we have an excellent culture with the team on working hard,” Assad said. “My coaching philosophy is to have as much fun as possible while working as hard as possible, and our underlying focus is dominance.”