Meet Rear Admiral Sandra Stosz, the new Superintendent at Coast Guard Academy. Sandra discusses her role with the academy and what opportunities the institution has for sailors. Learn more about the passion she has for serving her country and how sailing has played an important role in her life in this interview with US SAILING.
US SAILING: Tell us about your new role as Superintendent at Coast Guard Academy? What are your responsibilities? How did you get involved with the Coast Guard?
Sandra: As Superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy, one of the five federal service academies, I am the equivalent of President or Chancellor at a civilian college or university. We have a cadet corps of about 1,000 and we balance a fully accredited academic program, a competitive athletic program and professional leader development. Our cadets graduate with a commission in the United States Coast Guard and a Bachelor of Science degree.
My interest in the Coast Guard was piqued in 1976 when I was a junior in high school and it made the news that the service academies were opening their doors to admit women. I was intrigued with the idea of an adventuresome career at sea and applied to the Naval Academy and the Coast Guard Academy. The Coast Guard Academy was smaller and every opportunity open to the men was offered equally to the women… so that drove my decision to attend the Coast Guard Academy. It’s a real honor to now come back to my alma mater as Superintendent!
US SAILING: What does the Coast Guard Academy have to offer sailors?
Sandra: The Coast Guard Academy is sort of a well-kept secret, and one of my main goals is to change that! I can’t think of any other collegiate program that offers young people more opportunity and adventure on the water than we do here at the Coast Guard Academy. Every cadet sails whether through professional training programs or as members of the sailing team. We have an impressive fleet of about 80 sailing vessels used for training and racing ranging from dinghies to the 300-foot barque EAGLE! Specifically, we offer an inter-collegiate sailing program with 25 420’s, 25 Flying Juniors and six lasers. We have a fleet of 16 Colgate 26’s and four Luders yawls (being replaced by eight new “Leadership 44’s” built by Morris Yachts). Our cadets also participate in ocean racing using our J-44 and J-120. And every cadet sails onboard the tall ship EAGLE, which is currently deployed for cadet cruise on a voyage to Europe. To complement our impressive boat inventory, we have an incredible sailing center and an exceptional line-up of top-notch coaches.
US SAILING: Did/Do other members of your family sail?
Sandra: Actually, I am a pioneer in my family; there is no history of sailing. But I like to think I drew my interest in the water from my grandfather, who was raised on the St. Lawrence Seaway, where his father was Captain of a private motor yacht (I know, I almost didn’t admit there was a motor yacht in my background). I had never sailed until I came to the Academy as a cadet in 1978. We sailed dinghies during our first summer program, and I was hooked. I raced dinghies on the intercollegiate sailing team all eight seasons, competed on the summer ocean racing circuit onboard Academy yachts, did frost biting in lasers and of course, sailed on cadet cruise aboard the venerable sailing barque EAGLE. As a cadet, I sailed at every opportunity!
US SAILING: What other types of sailing do you get involved in?
Sandra: After the Academy, I bought my own Flying Junior, and I continued to participate in offshore racing events depending on where my Coast Guard career led me. One of my favorite memories was sailing the Chicago-Mackinaw Race. And as many of your readers know, the Coast Guard provides safety and security for some of the bigger races. For instance, when I was captain of a Coast Guard cutter up on Lake Superior, I was assigned to escort the yachts competing in the Trans-Superior Yacht Race.
US SAILING: What are some the events/opportunities that you are most looking forward to in the future?
Sandra: I am very excited about the new fleet of eight “Leadership 44” sail training vessels designed by David Pedrick and being built for us by Morris Yachts. These boats are replacing our aged Luders 44s. We have already taken delivery of the first boat, and the others are not far behind. I am also looking forward to hosting the New York Yacht Club here at the Coast Guard Academy from July 29th – 31st during their 155th Annual Cruise. It’s a real honor and we are thrilled to welcome this distinguished group of sailors.
US SAILING: Why do you think it is important to give back to the sport?
Sandra: It is so important for us to “give back” as we gain in wisdom and experience – it’s all part of the cycle of life and preparing the next generation to replace us some day. When I was a cadet, my character and my future were shaped by the dedicated coaches and mentors who spent long, cold hours on the water helping me develop into a leader of character prepared to selflessly serve my Nation, which I have gladly done for going on 30 years.
US SAILING: Do you have any "funny story" to relate about sailing or something else unique that you think our readers would be interested to know about you?
Sandra: I’m going to tell a story relating back to my time as a cadet on the barque EAGLE, because plenty of your other readers can tell stories about intercollegiate dinghies or ocean racing! I sailed onboard EAGLE on cadet cruise for about five weeks the summer of 1981, from New London to Cork, Ireland. That same summer, upon completion of the EAGLE cruise, I was scheduled to sail our Ron Holland designed Swan 39, MAREVA II, on the summer ocean racing circuit. By an amazing coincidence, Ron Holland himself was sailing with us to Cork as a passenger onboard EAGLE. As a young cadet, one of my most thrilling sailing memories was meeting Ron Holland and escorting him “up and over” under full sail to the top of the main mast (150 feet) and back down!