Jake Fish, US SAILING Communications Manager
In an attempt to educate the sailing community about the "ins-and-outs" of college sailing, US SAILING interviewed the head coach of Stanford University's sailing team, John Vandemoer. In this question and answer session with Vandemoer, he discusses a number of relevant topics surrounding college sailing, including an approach to practice plans, what he looks for in potential recruits, making the transition to the college game, offseason training, and more... This is an outstanding resource for coaches interested in taking a shot at the college ranks and for high school sailors interested in sailing at the collegiate level.
When developing your weekly practice plans, briefly discuss the criteria you use when preparing for your next regatta… How do your practice plans change day-to-day through the course of a week?
We stick with a season plan and try not to be too reactionary to what happened the weekend before. We do set up our weekly and seasonal plan based on the boats we will be sailing and the venues. For instance, if we are going to be sailing a big 420 event we will practice in 420's and highlight the differences in the 420 as opposed to the FJ. If we are sailing at Navy with both 420's and FJs, we will do half and half that week so we get used to changing boats and changing techniques. Our weekly plan always highlights the venue we will be sailing in so if we go to a venue with big waves we will try to sail in the bay or if it will be really shifty we will tuck close into shore. Always in our weekly practice plan is to work on boathandling and starting, the two keys to success in any sailing.
What qualities and skill sets in sailors do you look for when recruiting?
I look for sailors who feel like they have more to learn and are excited about that. A young sailor who thinks they have it figured out is a real turnoff and probably not a good fit for a team I coach. I love to coach sailors who really want to learn and want to ask questions and be engaged in the process, rather then sailors who just focus on all results. I want hard workers. In my experience sailors that care too much about the result will not make the right rational decision on the race course but will rather make an emotional decision. I look for sailors, who above all else, like being on the water and enjoy sailing. The sport is more to them than the competition or the boat they are sailing in. It is pure fun!
What are some of the challenges high school/summer sailors need to consider while making the transition to college sailing?
I would ask all sailors coming into college sailing to learn to think outside the box. Sail lots of different boats with different crews and learn how to make a boat go fast. Try new things, learn from everyone and enjoy what you are doing. I love it when freshman come into the program with a resume which includes a shields regatta, offshore sailing, skiff sailing, the top C420 event etc...
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a varsity program? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a club?
The obvious advantage is the funding you can get from your athletic department. The other huge advantages are access to sports medicine, strength coaches, academic support and a professional culture.
What kind of offseason training regiment is expected from your sailors?
Our sailors are expected to always be working on their fitness, and we give them a program to help with that. Besides that, we encourage them to do some sailing but to also take some time off and enjoy doing other things. It is a fine balance because more time in a boat is most often a helpful thing if the sailor has the right mental mindset and is enjoying it.
About US SAILING
The United States Sailing Association (US SAILING), the national governing body for sailing, provides leadership for the sport in the United States. Founded in 1897 and headquartered in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, US SAILING is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. US SAILING offers training and education programs for instructors and race officials, supports a wide range of sailing organizations and communities, issues offshore rating certificates, and provides administration and oversight of competitive sailing across the country, including National Championships and the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics. For more information, please visit www.ussailing.org.