Sailing World - - Starting Line Offshore Racing -

Diana Wei­den­backer has been a sta­ple in the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire sail­ing pro­gram for more than 20 years. She started out as a vol­un­teer, be­came the as­sis­tant sail­ing coach, and is now head coach and di­rec­tor of the UNH Com­mu­nity Sail­ing Cen­ter. Her com­mit­ment to the univer­sity, its sail­ing pro­gram, and the com­mu­nity il­lus­trate her ded­i­ca­tion to the Wild­cats.

“It’s the most won­der­ful group of kids; I ab­so­lutely love work­ing with them,” Wei­den­backer says. “It’s a priv­i­lege every sin­gle day. The univer­sity sup­ports us as much as they can, and we pro­vide vol­un­teer, lead­er­ship and com­mu­nity op­por­tu­ni­ties. I love what I do. I would not trade it for the world.”

UNH is lo­cated 20 min­utes from the ocean, one hour from Bos­ton, and one and a half hours from some of the best ski slopes in the North­east, and has a stun­ning cam­pus. UNH boasts one of the largest club sports pro­grams in the coun­try, with 30 clubs in­clud­ing the sail­ing team. There has been a sail­ing pro­gram, off and on, since 1936 and con­sis­tently since the early to mid-1970s.

Wei­den­backer has a sys­tem in place, and the first thing elected team of­fi­cials do be­fore run­ning a meet­ing is take a work­shop with her im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the school’s win­ter break. “It’s an all-day event, and it’s a com­bi­na­tion of ex­plor­ing what their roles are, what their per­sonal goals are for lead­er­ship, and form­ing a co­he­sive team be­tween all of the of­fi­cers,” Wei­den­backer says. “The ex­pec­ta­tion is that you are able to rely on other peo­ple to help you out, espe­cially if you are feel­ing over­whelmed with aca­demics, sail­ing and so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties. Some­times, you need to del­e­gate.”

Wei­den­backer sees the ben­e­fits of be­ing part of the sail­ing team fits. “Stu­dents have an op­por­tu­nity, when they come to col­lege, to ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­plore dif­fer­ent types of lead­er­ship op­tions,” she says. “Those op­por­tu­ni­ties can go on a re­sume.”

Stu­dents who grad­u­ate from UNH hav­ing had a lead­er­ship role on the team, she says, re­mem­ber that the most. “They re­mem­ber more about man­ag­ing a bud­get, sched­ul­ing ve­hi­cles and ho­tel rooms, help­ing to plan for who is go­ing to sail where, and dis­ci­plinary is­sues. As a re­sult, they ap­ply those skills in a real-world sit­u­a­tion or at work.”

Of­fi­cers are re­spon­si­ble for fundrais­ing and re­cruit­ing. There is lim­ited fund­ing, so the stu­dents raise the ma­jor­ity of the re­sources. The com­mu­nity sail­ing cen­ter of­fers sum­mer pro­grams, which al­lows the team to raise money that goes back into the team.

The fa­cil­ity has no elec­tric­ity or run­ning wa­ter. It is lo­cated on Men­dums Pond, where there is no public ac­cess, and most of the boats that get out on the wa­ter are sail­boats. Typ­i­cal con­di­tions are light to medium winds and very shifty. The team has a few Light­nings and 18 Zim FJS.

In 2010, the team suf­fered a great loss when their boathouse, along with all of their boats and equip­ment, burned to the ground, but in less than a year, the team was able to raise $80,000.

“We raised and paid for 18 new FJS, and that’s be­cause we have such a strong com­mu­nity pro­gram and sup­port­ive alumni base and sail­ing com­mu­nity around us,” says Wei­den­backer. “Peo­ple across the coun­try came to­gether to help us out. It was like start­ing over again. It’s a slower process than you’d think to build the team with quan­tity and then skills with qual­ity. Now it seems like the com­mit­ment is there, and the team is fo­cused on im­prov­ing our rank­ings.” — Jen­nifer Mitchell

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