If sponsorship is the grease that keeps our sport moving, then college sailing is about to go in for a deluxe lube job. In February, Sperry Top-Sider announced a widespread initiative that includes sponsorship of the ICSA Women's Championship, a "scholastic essentials" discount program in partnership with West Marine, a 16-page guide to college sailing in the May issue of Sailing World, and the Sperry Top-Sider Excellence in College Sailing Grant that, at the end of the fall season, rewards the top-ranked coed and women's teams with cash and footwear to provide a boost going into the spring season.
Sperry president Craig Reingold explains the reasoning behind the company's recent plunge into college sailing. "Sailing is our heritage," he says. "It's only natural for us to want to give back to the future of sailing and help collegiate sailors be the best they can be."
Sperry's sponsorship of college sailing comes at a time when its boat shoes have become a fashion trend for sailors and non-sailors alike. "We're fortunate that Sperry Top-Sider is really popular on college campuses across the country right now," says Reingold. "We've benefitted from the boat shoe trend. Our foray into college sailing is a natural extension of our overall college initiative."
Among the performance-oriented footwear Sperry has developed for dinghy sailors is the Submersible Boot, a grippy, neoprene bootie designed with input from members of US Sailing Team Alphagraphics. As it has done with Olympians, the company hopes to solicit feedback from college and high-school sailors as it develops new gear. "We absolutely want to work with these younger sailors," says Reingold. "Their feedback is critical as we work to develop products that allows them to sail faster, safer, and make it to the podium."