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Jon Faudree brings decades of experience as head coach of JU’s first Varsity Sailing Club Team

By Clayton Levins

Jacksonville University

His car seat was strapped to the mast of the family sailboat when he was a child, and from then on he had a passion for sailing.

Now, Jon Faudree brings that love for his sport to Jacksonville University as head coach of the Varsity Sailing Club Team, which with a major funding boost this fall has been elevated to become the first such collegiate varsity sailing team in North Florida.

New JU Sailing Coach Jon Faudree. All photos by Donald dela Torre/Jacksonville University

Before he coached, Faudree was a competitive sailor. He started racing at age 9 and was skippering his family’s J/24 at 15, winning several club championships and local regattas along the way. He became New York State’s Laser champion in 1997 after winning the gold medal at the Empire State Games.

Faudree raced in college at New York Maritime College and Christopher Newport University. His long list of sailing experience as trimmer/tactician includes a national championship in 2005, second at the 2007 J24 World Championships and seventh at the 2008 J22 World Championships.

In the past 20 years, he dedicated himself to teaching and coaching sailing. His students have gone on to be Collegiate All-Americans, Collegiate Sailing Coaches, National Champions and U.S. Olympic team members.

Faudree is a U.S. Sailing Level 1 and 2 certified sailing instructor and is in the process of receiving Level 3 certification. In 2007, he was nominated for the U.S. Sailing Developmental Coach of the Year.

He has spent the past four years as youth sailing director and head coach for the Rochester Yacht Club. There he helped increase enrollment by 100 percent and created one of the country’s premiere youth sailing programs.

Coach Faudree recently answered questions about his new coaching job.

Question: What would you like to accomplish with the team?

Answer: There are several plans and dreams I have at JU:

  • To bring the JU Sailing Team to a nationally recognized level and attract sailors and students from around the country and the world to compete at the highest level of this sport.
  • To help these young sailors and students gain self-confidence and self-esteem, and get the most out of their college experience by learning or developing sailing skills. Many life lessons can be learned through this sport.
  • And finally, sailing is an incredibly fun sport, and I want as many people to get a chance to enjoy it and access to the water.

Q: What potential do you see in the growth of sailing at JU?

A: I would like to keep developing the waterfront here, by fundraising throughout the community, into a world-class watersports facility. I would like to give all JU students access to the water, through recreational sailing, kayaking, standup paddleboards, kiteboarding, wakeboarding and fishing. JU has the unique opportunity to create something very cool here. Something distinctive to this campus.

Q: How do you see the team as an asset to JU?

A: Sailing Teams at the national level have some of the highest GPA averages of all student athletes, so we will be looking to attract an academically motivated group. Sailing is the only real co-ed sport where men and women compete at the same level, so this continues a balance in athletics here, for Title IV. I am looking forward to continuing JU’s history of attracting international students, and just this week I have contacted sailors in Ireland, Croatia, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong and New Zealand, as well as stateside. This type of diversity can only enhance every JU student’s experience by introducing them to different cultures.

Q: What parts of coaching do you really enjoy?

A: The building process, bringing new people into the sport and seeing how much they end up loving the sport. I have coached some of the top sailors in the country, at all levels: youth, college, high school and pros. This has kept me busy and stretched in many directions, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to focus on just one team.

Q: How many members are there and how do you get on the team, etc.?

A: Right now I believe we’ll have around 12 sailors; due to its small size, there is an incredible opportunity for anyone to join. There are no cuts at this point and we will take anyone who is athletic, motivated to learn and smart.

Q: What is something surprising or different about sailing teams?

A: The athleticism that is involved. Sailors at this level need to be incredibly fit, flexible and tough. College regattas are two-day events that are mentally and physically exhausting. One study at the 2008 Olympics found sailing to be the hardest sport in the world. Beyond the athleticism is the mental side, trying to predict the ever-changing environment of the wind and water. A sailor needs to understand the physics of how a boat moves through the water and how sails work to get the most out of the boat. An incredible amount of foresight is needed to predict what competitors are going to do at any moment and how to sail within the rules.

Q: So are the practices tough?

A: Yes. We will be out there practicing and competing in the heat, the rain, heavy wind days and the cold … when we travel to Boston or upstate New York in March, there is a very good chance we will be sailing in the snow. When most people look out on the water and see sailboats, they think of it as a serene picture, which it very well could be. That is the great thing about this sport: you can tailor it depending on what you want. From a relaxing day sailing, all the way to the Olympics.

Q: What intrigued you or excited you about coming to JU?

A: There is so much support throughout the local sailing community here and the school to see that this program is successful. JU’s Dr. Steven Davis has done a tremendous job getting the team to where it is now, and I am excited to work with everyone to make sure we get to the national level. I wasn’t really looking for a new job; I was happy where I was. However, Dr. Davis’ passion for growing this team was infectious, and I decided to explore the option of moving here. When I visited the campus, I fell in love with it and its potential. From the beauty of the Spanish Moss on the trees to the diversity of majors; aviation to orthodontics, to the glassblowing major (I can’t wait to take a glassblowing class), there are so many unique opportunities, and I think that is something that the sailing team can add to: the unique opportunities here at JU.

For more information about Jacksonville University sailing, visit www.ju.edu/sailing.