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Hampton University Sailors Trade Blustery Virginia for Balmy Antigua

The seventeen members of the Hampton University sailing team
happily traded blustery snow and ice conditions for the balmy venue of Antigua
in mid-March. For the past four years, the Hampton, Virginia-based team has
traveled to St. Croix for its spring break practice. But this year, Antigua
proved their choice location.

“We have two
Antiguan sailors on the team, Ray Potter and Omari Scott,” says head coach,
Carolyn Grant. “Their families housed us and fed us for the week. And, the
Antigua Yacht Club let us use their boats at no charge. Later in the week, four
of our sailors competed in the Antigua Laser Open Regatta.”

A typical day of
practice for the college sailors began with morning exercises on land, then
drills on the water. The lunch break featured a workshop with a different
subject everyday such as sail trim, race management, rules and tactics. There
were practice races each afternoon aboard lasers and Sport 16s.

“The team is doing
very well this year,” says Grant. “We are ranked 10th in the Mid-Atlantic
District. It’s a very competitive district with nationally ranked schools such
as Navy, King Point (Merchant Marine Academy), New York Maritime, Georgetown
and St Mary’s. Now, we are deep enough skill-level-wise that we have entered
some team racing events.”

Upcoming, Grant
says, “We will enter a J/24 regatta at the Naval Academy. Otherwise we will
compete in dinghies, 420s or Flying Juniors for the semester.”

This year marks
the 10th anniversary of the sailing team. “We have just taken
delivery of a fleet of 12 new Flying Juniors and had a blessing of the fleet
with Gary Jobson and U.S. Olympic Coach, Gary Bodie, as honorary guests.”

In 1994, Hampton
University became the first Historically Black College or University to have an
intercollegiate sailing program. Gary Bodie, who had formerly instructed at Old
Dominion University and the US Naval Academy, was the first coach. Bodie
orchestrated getting the floating docks built, 10 Lasers and coach boats
donated and recruiting team members. Coach Todd Hudgins, who was the first to
bring the team to St. Croix and initiate Caribbean-based spring break
practices, followed Bodie. Grant took over as coach in the fall of 2002.

For potential college-bound Caribbean
sailors, what would be the benefits of attending Hampton University and being a
member of the sailing team? “I always say students first, sailors second,”
Grant says. “Academically, Hampton ranks in reputation with other prestigious
colleges like Howard, Spelman and Morehouse. For sailing, I think the
experiences of visiting different colleges are a great way to open up minds.
Because of the amount of time we train and travel, friendships forge that last
a lifetime.”

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