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Anchors Aweigh
UNH's sailing team rebounds from a fire
by Tracy Manforte Sweet '92
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More than a year after a fire set by vandals burned down the UNH sailing team's boathouse—destroying the fleet of 55 boats and related equipment—the team is not only sailing again but has a new boathouse as well.

It's a storybook ending that few would have predicted in March 2010. "To be honest, I didn't think I would see a boathouse before I graduated," says team commodore Brittany Healy '11.

After the fire, faced with a $600,000 loss and only $18,000 in insurance coverage, club members and coach Diana Weidenbacker put out a call for help to sailing team alumni and the sailing community.

Alumni donated used boats; a barbecue put on by parents of local children involved in the team's summer sailing programs netted $3,000. The mother of a sailing family bought the team a picnic table and persuaded the store owner to sell her another one at half-price after explaining the team's plight. Boston University head coach Brad Churchill rollerbladed from Boston to Durham and back to raise money for the team. Steve Perry, owner of Zim Sailing in Warren, R.I., who bought the molds that were used to build the pre-fire fleet, negotiated deep discounts with suppliers and delivered 18 new Flying Junior sailboats in six trips over the summer and fall.

"I was struck by how much—and how many—people were touched by our story," says Healy. The team refers to this groundswell of support as the "Loder Effect," named for former team member Chris Loder '92, who has given back to the program almost every year since graduating.

"Despite experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions," says Healy, "from grief to joy, from disappointment to great accomplishment, we never once lost hope."

In all, Weidenbacker estimates, more than $86,000 has been raised in cash or equipment. The fundraising continues: the team's next most critical need is a coach boat, which costs about $30,000.

As for the returning team members, who recently embarked on a promising spring season, Healy believes they have emerged a stronger and more cohesive group. "We have a much better grasp of our future," she says. "We're more focused on working on skills and getting better as a sailing team, rather than a recovering team."

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