Fordham Sailing Among Nation’s Best; Finishes Fall Ranked 17th



The sailing team helped clean up its practice facility at City Island, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

On a campus with so many sports, it can be easy for a team to fly under the radar. The Fordham sailing team has managed to do this while achieving unprecedented success on the national scale.

For the first time in its history, Fordham sailing is ranked in the top 20 in the nation. It is No. 17 out of 218 schools in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association of North America (ICSA). The co-ed team’s season concluded at the War Memorial Regatta at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, where the team finished eighth out of 50 teams in the Middle Atlantic Conference.

“We made a lot of freshman mistakes,” Head Coach Reed Johnson said. Johnson was hired to be the team’s first professional coach in September of last year.

The team’s fall season lasts from the beginning of September until mid-November, while the spring season starts in mid-February and can last through Memorial Day. The team practices at least three days a week for over three hours on Long Island Sound and Eastchester Bay off City Island, a short, 15-minute drive from Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. The team also hosts three or four regattas a year.

After qualifying for the men’s single-handed championships in the fall, the team has high hopes for the future.

“I anticipate that as we continue, recruiting will be like a domino effect,” Joe Sullivan said. Sullivan is an alumnus of the class of 1958 and helped resurrect the program in 2000 after it had dissolved in 1975, and served as volunteer head coach until last year. “Top high school sailors will see how well Fordham is doing, and will become more interested in coming to Fordham.”

Johnson, too, is excited for what the future may hold.

“Within the next four years, depending on what kind of work we do, we can become one of the best teams in college sailing,” Johnson said. “But it’s going to take an immense amount of effort.”

Johnson recognizes that the team has a lot of potential but needs to remain focused through the offseason.

“The biggest strides we’re going to make are going to be off the water this season,” he said. “They’re going to be improving our conditioning strength, our teamwork, our togetherness, our mental game.”

Sullivan attributes much of the team’s success to Johnson’s ability to draw some of the nation’s top recruits to the program. Twelve out of the 27 sailors are freshmen, and one of them, Olin Paine, finished seventh in the nation at the Men’s Single-handed National Championship in Long Beach, Calif., Nov. 9 and 10. The champion, Juan Maegli, a senior from the College of Charleston, competed for Guatemala in the London Olympics over the summer, while the runner-up won the Sailor of the Year award and the third finisher was national champion last year.

Johnson and Sullivan share the same vision for the team: Both want to establish Fordham as a consistent national powerhouse that continues to draw strong recruiting classes year after year.

“The biggest challenge in recruiting has been getting kids to come visit Fordham because in the past we have not been known as a sailing powerhouse. Kids are interested in the schools that are known as good sailing schools,” Johnson said. “Once you get them here, the school sells itself.”

In addition to its on-the-water success, the team is very proud of the work it does off-the-water to help its community. Since Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, the team has been helping the owners of Sailmaker Marine on City Island, Paul Laddamada and Maura Mandrano, clean up the debris from their marina, 90 percent of which was destroyed.

“Mora and Paul have been big supporters of the team and are really kind, generous people,” senior captain Emma Pfohman said. “When we saw how hard they were hit by the hurricane, we knew we had to give back.”

“It would’ve taken us 17 weekends to do what your kids did in two hours,” a teary-eyed Mandrano told Sullivan after the student athletes made their first trip to the marina.

The team has a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to.

“The team is really motivated because we have seen that we can break into the top 20,” Pfohman said. “In the spring, we can use the momentum we’ve gotten from the fall season to qualify for women’s and co-ed nationals. I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

Coming off the heels of the team’s best season to date, it will enter the spring season focused upon qualifying for the ICSA Coed National Championship for the very first time. Team members love working together and are dedicated to making a name for themselves.

“Our team is made up of very hardworking individuals.  All of our student athletes dedicate a significant amount of time to sailing, and they all focus on getting better every day,” Johnson said. “Our team’s biggest goal is to improve on a daily basis.  It would be great to qualify for a few more national championships, but none of that will come if we don’t practice hard and push each other.”

Despite not being the most well-known story to come out of the fall athletic season, the sailing team is making a run for the most exciting. It is certainly a team to watch; maybe Fordham’s best-kept secret will become its biggest success.