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Olympic sailing gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe coming to JU to offer team pointers

By Clayton Levins

Jacksonville University 

One way to help turn your team into a champion? Bring in a champion to show them how it’s done. 

That’s exactly what new Jacksonville University Varsity Sailing Club Team Head Coach Jon Faudree has pulled off. On Nov. 13, sailing Olympic gold medalist Anna Tunnicliffe will be on campus to hold a clinic for the team. 

“She’s the Tiger Woods of this sport,” Faudree said. “She’s about as big as you can get in the sport, and to have her come here is an amazing opportunity.”

Tunnicliffe was a graduate and four-time sailing All-American at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. During her college career, she was College Sailor of the Year. Since starting her professional sailing career, she has been a two-time World Sailor of the Year and four-time U.S. Sailor of the Year, and was a Gold medalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Faudree has known Tunnicliffe through his years of working with sailing.

“I am really excited that Anna is coming,” he said. “This is an incredible opportunity for our program and for this school. I think it will really build a face for this new sailing program.”

The visit by Tunnicliffe fits nicely into Faudree’s long-range plans for raising the profile of sailing and watersports not only at JU, but in the community. JU is on track for hosting the 2017 Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association National Championships, and the university is also envisioning its facilities to be used as a “watersports hub” for the region. Though for now it’s only a preliminary goal and nothing is yet on the drawing board, down the road, the hub might afford access to the river for underprivileged youths and the broader community in fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding, wakeboarding and more, Faudree said.

The sailing championships, meanwhile, would mean roughly 400 sailors, including coaches and support staff from around the country, descending on Jacksonville for three events over a two-week period from late May to early June.

The Women’s National Semifinals kicks off the event, with 18 teams battling for nine spots and a chance to meet nine other teams that will have already pre-qualified for the National Championships. This is followed by the Co-Ed Team Race Championships, in which 14 teams each made up of three boats from one school square off with each other in a round robin format. The final three days of the event is the Co-Ed Fleet Race National Champs, where all 18 teams sail at the same time and each school has one boat in two divisions. Each division sails 18 races and the scores of both are added together to determine the champion.

“Hosting this would be a huge coup for the city,” Faudree said. “This would be the first College National Championship of any kind hosted in Jacksonville.”

To become even more competitive in its own right, JU’s sailing team received a major funding boost this fall and is now the first such collegiate varsity sailing team in North Florida.

The Jacksonville University Varsity Sailing Club Team at the SAISA (South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association) South Points No. 6 Regatta in October in St. Petersburg, hosted by Eckerd College. From left: Frank Perryman, Waverly Askew, Jenna Spangler, Mathew Martin, Dan Moore, Karolina Dzieniszewki, David Greene, Jennifer Danner, and Robert Dougherty. Not pictured: Justin Wiggins.

In October, 10 sailors made the trip to St. Petersburg to compete in the SAISA (South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association) South Points No. 6 Regatta, hosted by Eckerd College.

The JU team knew the regatta was going to be a challenge, and this was only the second time the team had sailed FJs, Faudree said. Despite strong winds and four capsizes, they tied for sixth.

“One of the best finishes ever for a JU team at a regatta,” said JU’s Dr. Steven Davis, longtime faculty advisor/coach for the program.

“Capsizes are easily fixed with more practice in wind and in FJs,” Faudree added. “The team’s understanding of how to start and put a race together is the important part to build on for the future.”

Most active skippers for the team in the competition were Daniel Moore ’12 and David Greene ‘15. Most active crew were Waverly Askew ’16, Robert Dougherty ’16 and Jennifer Danner ’16.

Team members on hand were Askew, Danner, Robert Dougherty, Karolina Dzieniszewki, David Greene, Mathew Martin, Moore, Frank Perryman, Jenna Spangler and Justin Wiggins.

For the complete results go to http://scores.collegesailing.org/f12/saisa-south-points-6.