In June of 2014, the Cornell University athletic department announced that their women’s sailing team would be elevated from a club level sport to varsity status, adding to the 36 other varsity teams on campus. “It’s [varsity status] always been on people’s minds, wondering if it would be possible,” says Brian Clancy, head coach for the Cornell sailing team. “But it’s not entirely what we focus on. We focus on the image of the program. We want it to represent the Cornell Big Red to the best of our abilities.”
Clancy joined the Cornell team as head coach in 2010 after a two-year stint working as an assistant coach at the U.S. Na- val Academy. “The team has been around for a while, but it had been at the club level and it needed some structure. It was nice to come and develop it in that way,” he says.
The addition of the Merrill Family Sailing Center in 2009 caught the eye of Clancy, as well as the college sailing community at Cornell. “I knew that the program was coming along and there was a lot of buzz when they put up their sailing facility, so I thought there was a lot of support for the team and a lot of potential,” he explains.
The sailing center is located about two miles from campus on Cayuga Lake and is where the team stores their fleet of 18 420s and six FJs. A generous alumni donation made the state-of- the-art facility possible and made it easier for the athletic department to consider adding the women’s sailing team to their varsity roster.
Another contributing factor is the recent success of the women’s team. In 2013 the women’s sailors captured third place at the Sperry Top-Sider/ICSA Women’s National Championship. This is the best finish the Cornell sailing team has ever had at a nationals.
“I would be lying to say that it didn’t catch the attention of the college sailing community and Cornell athletics that we finished on the podium at a national championship and had an All-American skipper and crew,” says Clancy. “But I think it shows the hard work of the program, the team and everything that we work towards, which is setting goals and achieving them.”
Now that the women’s team is a varsity sport, Clancy states that it will not change how the team operates as a whole or how they will set their goals for the coming seasons.
“The coed team is just as important as the women’s and the women’s is just as important as the coed, so from the beginning we have always said that we don’t have a coed team or a women’s team or a singlehanded team, we are the Cornell University Sailing Team and that’s our motto, to work together.”