The University of Connecticut Sailing Team has rebanded over the past few years, and the sailors are working toward creating a sustainable team model to ensure their program’s longevity.
“UConn sailing was around in the 1970s and in the 1990s, and then the enthusiasm fizzled out,” says Brian Pracon, an alumnus of the team who also just stepped down as head coach; Gary Hendrickson will step into the head-coach role next season. “We didn’t want that anymore — around 2004 the team restarted, with one boat and sailed its first event in 2006 with four or five kids on the team,” says Pracon.
When the team reformed, they relocated practices to Lake Wangumbaug at Lisicke Park in Coventry, Connecticut, only 12 minutes from campus. Previously, the team was sailing out of a UConn satellite campus at Avery Point on Long Island Sound, an hour’s drive from the main campus.
“The logistics to move sailing to the lake was a lot of work for the kids,” says Pracon. Pracon also recognized how helpful the New England conference has been in supporting their growing team.
“All the teams in NEISA gave us a lot of support, because they want a competitive conference too,” he says. “They will come out and help, offer advice, and it was really cool to see that they want us to survive.”
UConn keeps their eight 420s at Lake Wangumbaug, where the conditions are typical to lake sailing, says Jennifer Lee, team captain. “Prevailing west-northwest shifty breeze that funnels down and runs the length of the lake,” says Lee. “It’s ideal for competing at most of New England’s venues. However, the team is also lucky to still use its previous venue to practice open-ocean sailing conditions and host events.”
“We got our 420s through fundraising and a little support from the school,” says Pracon. “We have a fall and spring fundraising event that the school sponsors, and we get extra money if we raise the most money. We also sell boat names, clothing, etc.” “We also heavily rely on the support of the young alumni, who are excited to see the exponential amount of growth that the team has undergone over the past 11 years,” says Lee.
The team practices three days a week and competes in one or two regattas per weekend during the fall and spring seasons. The team is student run with an executive board made up of elected sailors and a coach, who helps to run practices, put together pairings for regattas and run workouts.
“Sailors are expected to attend two morning workouts a week during the normal season and attend two out of the three scheduled practices every week,” says Lee.
“Team goals include: to qualify and compete at top-level events that require us to achieve a certain ranking status,” says Lee. “Practice goals vary per practice, goals to better the team are to fundraise enough money to buy a bigger fleet of newer boats,” she says. This would allow the team to achieve another goal: host regattas at its new home base.