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Plan to Replace URI Sailing Team's Aging Fleet on Course Thanks to Recent Gifts

URI Sailing, Home of #1 Ranked Women’s Collegiate Team, Receives $130,000 in Gifts Toward its $450,000 Goal.  Gifts will also help support community outreach and top-notch coaching

KINGSTON, R.I., March 1, 2016 -- With the University of Rhode Island Women’s Sailing Team ranked number one in the United States, the URI Sailing Program has received two gifts totaling $130,000 and is on track to raise $450,000 by the start of the summer. In addition to replacing an aging fleet and purchasing 38 new boats, the funds raised would expand the reach of the program in the community and pay the salary of a world-class coach who has elevated the team’s profile dramatically in the past two years.

The gifts received include $100,000 from long-time URI Sailing supporter Commodore Henry H. Anderson Jr., and $30,000 from former URI sailor Jamie Hilton ’83, who will be involved in helping to raise the remaining funds, along with other dedicated former URI sailing team members from five decades of sailing. 

Competing in the hotbed of collegiate sailing, the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association, URI sailing has a rich history of competitive success and has produced several Olympians and dozens of All-Americans since it was founded in 1935. Sailing team head coach Rollin “Skip” Whyte ’72 brings a new measure of leadership and competitiveness, having served as head sailing coach at Boston University, leading the team to six national titles and many regional championships. Whyte spent 17 years as an Olympic coach, coaching teams to five Olympic medal performances including gold in 2004.

“My goal is to have a balanced team that is able to compete on multiple levels and to help every URI sailor go as far as their motivation and dedication will take them,” said Whyte. 

URI sailing is a club sport and, as such, the limited support it receives from the University’s Student Senate pays for basic needs. It doesn’t cover acquiring new boats or a coach’s salary. 

A new URI Sailing Advisory Council, which Hilton chairs, is made up of sailing supporters and alumni who are committed to modernizing the program, which serves numerous audiences beyond the sailing team and club. The URI Sailing Center on Salt Pond, about 15 minutes from the Kingston campus, is part of the community, offering a youth sailing program, opportunities for high school students, adults, and URI students. The program serves more than 400 sailors each year and there is opportunity for expansion. 
“Part of our goal is to greatly increase participation in all of these programs and add more,” said David Livingston, ’91, URI Sailing and Facilities coordinator and Sailing Advisory Council member.

Livingston hopes to expand the offerings to include kayaking, paddleboarding, and yoga paddleboarding. He’s working with The STEM Reach Initiative, a U.S. Sailing program that uses sailing as a platform to motivate youth to explore science, technology, engineering, and math.

“The URI Sailing Program is changing and becoming more collaborative in its nature and that’s very exciting,” Hilton said. “The Council is having a positive influence and helping the students realize they have to make more informed decisions, not just for the here and now, but they also need to lay the groundwork for the next decade. Skip is building the foundation and the team will be stronger and better because of it.”

Approximately 50 URI students participate on the women’s and coed sailing teams, which compete in 18 Flying Juniors.  This past summer, URI Women’s A Division skipper Rachel Bryer ’17 of Jamestown, R.I., a pharmacy major, was named an Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Women’s All-American Skipper, one of only six women nationwide to earn the honor. The team participates in a staggering number of regattas on weekends and holds practice four times a week in season. The team’s sailors maintain a collective 3.2 GPA. 

Whyte hopes the increase in funds and resources will help him recruit additional regional sailing talent to URI.  “College is an important time in their lives and sailing is a great vehicle to become a better person,” he said.