The Middlebury College Sailing Club has a rich history dating back to 1940. Until January of 2010, the story of the club was scattered throughout decades of periodicals, yearbooks and archived photographs – but thanks to the incredible efforts of Former Commodore Katie Donovan ’10 we have the following detailed chronicle of the MCSC.
1940: The Dinghy Club
- Founded by Stuart Walker the Dinghy Club emerged in 1940 taking advantage of the growing sport of dinghy racing. Dr. Walker remarks, “My purpose was three-fold – I wished to participate in intercollegiate sailing regattas, I wished to find other students who were interested in sailing and I wished to obtain support in building a Snipe (from a kit).” While they lacked college funding or even boats to practice on, they attended at least 3 regattas in their inaugural year. The 7 sailors traveled to BU, MIT and even Dartmouth for regattas during 1940-41.
1947: Sailing on Champlain
- In the fall, the club, now totaling 90 members, struck a deal with local camp, Ecole Champlain, to utilize their boats on Lake Champlain for weekly practices (sailing three Snipes and one Cape Cod Knock-About). This new practice routine proved extremely beneficial to the club. This year, Middlebury took first in the New England Associate Regatta for women, third in the Heptagonal Regatta at MIT and second in the New England Dinghy Championship after losing “by a gust” to Boston College.
1948: The Commodore’s Ball
- With Commodore Roemer at the helm, “the club brought the Commodore’s Ball into port early in November, carrying cargo for one of the social highlights of the season.” The Commodore’s Ball, a formal dance held over homecoming weekend, began as a fundraising event for the club. The success of the 1948 Ball allowed club members to BUILD their first fleet of 4 boats (Weasel design).
- The club’s dedication to improving their programming did not go unnoticed, and it quickly became the largest co-ed athletic club on campus. Following this tremendous growth and the completion of the new fleet of boats, the sailing club moved its program from Ecole Champlain to Lake Dunmore in the spring with the hopes that more students would be able to join the club and racers would be able to practice regularly. The new boats also allowed Middlebury to host competitions- hosting seven or eight regattas every year.
1950: Sailing Success
- With over 75 members, the Sailing club reached new heights in 1949-1950. Panther sailors took home first place in the New England Championships beating Bowdoin, Colby, Dartmouth, Brown, MIT, Amherst, Tufts and McGill. With only $500/year coming from the Administration, the club continued its growing tradition of the Commodore’s Ball. Sailors continued to dream big with goals such as “a private Sailing Club water front [on Dunmore], ice rigs for ice sailing, and doubling the members of the fleet”
1951: Continued Growth
- The club continued to flourish during the early 50’s and grew to be the second largest club on campus. Sailors were known as the saltiest and most enthusiastic people on campus. Affected by “Dunmore Fever”, sailors would commute to the lake anytime there was a breath of wind to take advantage of. The sailing club also taught sailing classes to make sailing more accessible to the greater student body.
1953-1963: The Yacht Club
- Led by team captain and top sailor, Patricia Hinman ’55 (North American Women’s Champ), Middlebury Sailing rose to seventh in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association. Racers competed against Harvard, Yale, Tufts, Brown, Coast Guard, RPI, Dartmouth, MIT and even Canadian clubs like Toronto. The greatest victory was winning the Hewitt Trophy from Dartmouth during the fall of 1954.
- The sailing club was of course as well known for its social events as its performance on the water. Social highlights included the Commodore’s Ball of course as well as waterfront picnics and parties on Dunmore complete with moonlight sailing!
1964: The End of an Era
- Due to a lack of participation, the sailing club began to dissipate in 1964. By 1965, the club no longer existed and the opportunity for Midd Kids to sail was gone. Sadly, the rich, 20-year tradition of the Commodore’s Ball died along with it.
1998-2006: Sailing Club Revival
- After a 30+ year hiatus, sailing returned to Middlebury under the leadership of Commodore William Noto ’97. The revived club found a home at Point Bay Marina on Lake Champlain in Charlotte, VT and sailed a mismatched fleet of four 420-class boats from the early 1970’s. While club membership and participation varied from year to year, the leadership of Commodore Shannon Donegan ‘08 sparked a movement to transform the club…..tides were changing.
2007-2008: Rock the Boat
- The sailing club launched the Rock the Boat fundraising campaign in December 2007 under the leadership of Commodore Chandler Koglmeier ’09. Thanks to the incredible generosity of alums, friends and families of Middlebury Sailing, we were able to purchase a brand new fleet of 12 Flying Juniors (FJs) in August of 2008. Following in the footsteps of our predecessors from 1948, we took this opportunity to move the program to Lake Dunmore to decrease the commute, facilitate regular practice 3 days a week and encourage club growth through our new PE and Recreational sailing programs.
2009-2013: Restarting Traditions
- Following the success of the Rock the Boat Campaign, the racing team grew substantially. With over 35 active racers on the team, Middlebury Sailing was able to attend over 25 regattas in 2009-2010 throughout New England. Led by Commodore Katie Donovan ’10, the Sailing Team went on its first spring training trip to San Diego. September 2009, the team hired its first-ever racing coach, Will Strehlow, and hosted the inaugural Middlebury Cup, a top-tier/trophy-level regatta in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association. In Spring 2012 MCSC completed our venue change to the north end of Lake Dunmore, where we shared a beautiful facility with the Middlebury crew team. Most importantly, the age-old tradition of the Commodore’s Ball was revived in November 2009.
2014-Present: Team Building
- Under the leadership of Commodore Patrick Stevenson ‘22.5, the sailing club continues to develop. The Florida spring training trip has become a yearly tradition, and the Commodore’s Ball continues to be Middlebury Sailing’s biggest social event. A wealth of new talent has boosted Middlebury Sailing to new highs in the extremely competitive New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NEISA), winning the New England Dinghy Tournament twice in the 2014-15 season under former Commodore Terry Duncan ’15 and 2014-15 season coach Connor Needham. For the first time in the history of the MCSC, the team qualified for the 2019 Erwin Schell Trophy Conference Championship. The team is excited for the 2022 spring season and is looking forward to another sailing-filled year!