Yale Undergrads: Networking their way to Bermuda
By Chris Museler
The most you hear from your alma mater is usually a phone call asking for a donation. For sailors, maybe you get to race in the alumni regatta. But for a lucky group of Yale University alums and undergraduates, an ocean race was the perfect way to make a stronger connection between students and alums.
“Jamie cornered me at a party in November,” said Genoa Warner, a recent Yale graduate who finished the Bermuda Race yesterday aboard the J/44 Stampede with five of her former classmates and three alumni. “He said, ‘Don’t get too excited but I think we can pull this off.’” From that point on, Jamie Ewing and Warner started gathering support among sailing team members and alumni to put together a team for the race, reinstating the school’s offshore team that faded after the 1970s.
“The contact between the alums and students was dissipating as the sailing team became more serious,” said Ewing who had raced for the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club as an undergrad, and who served as a watch captain. Warner and her team finished second as the best performing dinghy team in intercollegiate sailing this year. “The Bermuda Race was a way to get the Alums together with the students and the race by definition requires experience on board. So this was a perfect fit.”
According to Ewing, Yale had an offshore team in the 1960s. But when top sailors Steve Benjamin and Dave Perry were winning dinghy championships in the 1970s, the offshore component waned. Ironically, it was Benjamin who became a cheerleader for Ewing’s crazy idea and brought together individual donors including Jim Bishop of the J/44 class, who brokered the loaning of Stampede for the race.
“This helps with making a link between the alumni and undergrads and building that network,” said Warner who had twice sailing in the Storm Trysail Club’s intercollegiate offshore regatta for Yale. “It’s different that an alumni coming to Yale and sailing dinghies for a weekend. “We get to know each other more.”
Ewing originally saw the concept as a new pathway to get alums and students together and also to introduce the Yale dinghy sailors to the adventurous world of offshore sailing and big boats.
Alumni lead the watches aboard Stampede and served as mentors in a way through navigation and even a Gulf Stream mishap. “I decided we needed a reef and I may have put it in wrong.” said Ewing. The result was a six-foot long rip in the mainsail. The crew worked together to lash the luff to the mast and eventually repair the sail with stickyback on the boom.
When asked if the students ever question the decisions of their elders, Warner laughed. “We respected the captain’s wishes,” she said, “for the most part.”