USF sailing makes national waves

Published October 30, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - The Bulls are enjoying their first year in the Big East, but the buzz on the St. Petersburg campus isn't football or basketball. People are talking about USF's top 10 women's sailing team.

"The list is Yale, Dartmouth, Georgetown, St. Mary's, University of Hawaii, U.S. Naval Academy, Brown, Stanford, Charleston and No. 10, the University of South Florida," coach Allison Jolly told a group of alumni and faculty at a luncheon last week, referring to Sailing World Magazine's college sailing rankings. "Hopefully by next year we will be able to reverse the order and be at the top of the list."

Jolly, twice U.S. yachtswoman of the year, and gold-medal winner in the 470 class at the first women's Olympic sailing event (Pusan, South Korea, 1988), has been coaching the team for two years.

"We are about to send Paige Railey (Class of '09) to the singlehanded National Championships in Hawaii," Jolly said.

Railey and her teammates had strong performances at Dartmouth, Navy and Yale this fall. The team is led by seniors Kristen Herman, Jee Lee, Ashley Wierzbicki and Abby Ethington and backed by junior Kirsten Murray and freshmen Alyson Dagly, Kim Witkowski and Nicole Buechler.

On the coed side, Kevin Reali, Phil Tanner and Dagly qualified for the Sloop National Championships being held this weekend on Michigan's Gull Lake.

Other coed sailors Jesse Combs and Tim King joined Reali and Ashley Reynolds for strong finishes at Dartmouth, King's Point and Tufts this fall. The coed team is ranked 14th in the country (there are more than 200 teams) and will compete in the Atlantic Coast Championships Nov. 12-13 at St. Mary's City, Md.

"Our goal is to someday host events of that caliber here," Jolly said.

As far as sailing venues go, St. Petersburg is an excellent destination in the fall, winter and spring. The St. Petersburg Yacht Club hosts dozens of national and international regattas each year, but so far, the USF St. Petersburg campus has been unable to attract any national caliber collegiate events.

One reason is the size of USF's fleet. The university has 12 boats, the minimum needed to host a regatta.

"The top schools all have 18 or 24 boats," Jolly said. "If you are going to come all the way down to Florida to race, you want it to be a big regatta, with a lot of schools. Twelve boats just doesn't do it."

Another problem is the age of USF's tiny fleet.

"The average life of these sailboats are about two years," Jolly said. "They take quite a beating. Right now we are sailing with boats that are 5 years old. We are long overdue."

The sailing team is trying to raise money to attend more regattas and send more sailors (not just the top four). The program is also in need of a houseboat, pontoon boat or open floating platform for rotations during regattas.

For more information call (727) 553-4518 or visit stpt.usf.edu/sailingteam.