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members of the women's sailing club

Members of the women's sailing club. Image: provided.

Thanks to alumni, women's sailing receives varsity status

Brian Clancy was an assistant coach at the United States Naval Academy when he took notice that the winds had shifted for Cornell sailing. "I knew that something was going on with Cornell," Clancy said. "I knew [the program] had tremendous alumni support, and it became evident they were going to be putting up a beautiful building gifted by the Merrill family. Something was stirring." Clancy accepted the program's head coaching position in 2010.

Thanks to the generosity of three generations of Big Red sailors and the elevation of the program to varsity status, Clancy has since spurned offers to take over other established programs, choosing to remain at the reins of a program on which he has put his stamp. Long planned and patiently executed, Big Red sailing has kept an entire "family" of sailing devotees intact.

In June, Cornell announced that women's sailing would become the Department of Athletics and Physical Education's 37th varsity sport offering. That announcement came five years after the completion of the state-of-the-art Merrill Family Sailing Center and a decade after a group of alumni began a campaign to ensure the future of sailing at Cornell. That campaign led to the ability to hire Clancy as head coach a young go-getter who orchestrated the club team to a number of successes, including directing the women's program to the podium for third place at nationals in 2013. It also helped secure a plot along the water that would become the sailing center, as well as supported a fleet of boats that is the envy of many schools.

members of the women's sailing club

Women's sailing club. Image: provided. See larger image

For athletics, adding sailing brings another nationally competitive sport with superb facilities and impressive alumni support into the fold while offering increased varsity opportunities for women.

Sailing has a long and storied history at Cornell since its inception in the late 1940s under Athletics Hall of Famer Jack Rogers '45, who not only was a football and swimming star at the university, but also the sailing program's first coach.

The sport had a short stint as a varsity program in the 1970s and early 1980s before returning to club status. Throughout that time, Cornell sailing has developed a family feel. A core leadership group that included Ted Moore '71, Rob Swanson '74, Doug Merrill '89 and Andrew Davis '02 advanced the interest of the women's sailing program and ensured it would be fully funded prior to implementation. Each has spoken extensively about the family within the program – a worthy reason to help pass along their own passion to the next generations who will sail on Cayuga Lake.

"Cornell sailing connects you with people all over the university different schools, different majors, different years. It gives you a much broader perspective," Merrill says. The "family" has made a difference to student-athletes who have benefited from it. "Without the support we wouldn't have a boathouse, boats or a new coach," says All-American Lauren Turner '13. "The team would not have varsity status without the alumni behind it."

Jeremy Hartigan is an associate director of Athletics, Sports Communications.

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