Fordham Sailing Experiences Meteoric Rise



The Fordham sailing team has gone from competitive to formidable, knocking off top-ten teams as of late and winning the Jesuit Open, seen here. (Courtesy of the Sailing Team)

At a college with so many intercollegiate sports and at a campus not directly involved in very many of them, sometimes success is overlooked. However, the sheer amount of success the Fordham sailing team has seen lately makes them tough to ignore, not that anyone would want to. The team, which is currently ranked 17th of 2000 programs nationally, has shot up in recent years, with reasonable expectations of qualifying for the co-ed Atlantic Coast Championships (ACCs).

“I guess it’s probably just because a lot of people don’t know that the team exists,” Emma Pfohman, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’13 and co-captain, said in regard to the lack of talk about the team’s success.

“When I started at Fordham and told people that I was on the sailing team, most people understood it to mean that I was on the crew team. Most of them didn’t realize we had a sailing team. There’s also just the fact that there aren’t a lot of people at Lincoln Center that do sports. I guess there’s a divide between the Lincoln Center campus and the Rose Hill campus in a way. While it’s not a huge team, it definitely is a close team.”

Since finishing ahead of the fourth- and eighth-ranked Roger Williams and Hobart, the team has shot up in the rankings from 21st to 17th, and expects to continue rising. Such expectations are definitely alive and well in the team’s co-captain.

“I’m a senior, so I’ve been sailing against a lot of these teams for the last four years, so sailing against a team like Hobart or a team like Bridgetown, you kind of have the expectation and you know that they are a varsity program, well-funded, practicing every single day… you don’t go in knowing that they’ll beat you, but you have the expectation that they’ll be really hard to beat,” Phofman said. “The goal is to eventually be number one, and I think that’s the best goal that we could have, and a real goal too. We’re really excited about it, having gone from 18, now 17, and it’s the first time we’ve broken into the national rankings. I don’t want to be cocky about qualifying for ACCs, because anything can happen, but we’re going to keep working and doing our best.”

The team practices at City Island, described by Pfohman to be “kind of a quirky little place off of the Bronx.” The location is in Pelham Park, about a 15-minute drive from the Bronx campus. Being one of Lincoln Center’s few athletes, there is definitely a bit more commitment required, but as recent results have shown, it has been more than worth it. Practice for the team usually lasts around five hours on most weekdays, and that’s for the more conveniently located Rose Hill team members.

When asked about the team’s sudden and dramatic winning ways, Pfohman admitted that she did not expect to be in a position to qualify for ACCs back when she began in her freshman year of 2009, pointing to additions to the coaching staff, a joint purchase of new vessels and a strong freshman recruiting class as key reasons the team has exceeded expectations.

“I’ve been really excited to sail with Alex Jacob, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’13, this year. He’s obviously really talented, and it’s a really impressive recruited class. A lot of that is thanks to [Coach] Reed [Johnson] for finding these kids and ultimately convincing them that Fordham is the best for them. I think they’ve added a lot to the team, but they’re also learning from the older kids, and I feel like that’s my role, working with Alex and some of the younger members of the team so that we are the best that we can be and improve each other. The talent is awesome, but there’s a lot of talent on other teams as well, so we’re building up. We’re only as strong as our weakest member, and I think we take that seriously.”

As the team keeps its focus forward and continues to improve, the horizon fast approaches. For a co-captain that has been there before, the War Memorial qualifiers present a familiar and hugely important challenge.

“It’s the top seven teams, and we’ve never made it before,” Pfohman said. “Last year, I think, we were tied for ninth, and it’s always been really close, frustratingly close. I’ve competed in the War Memorial before, which is the qualifier for ACCs, I guess two times now, and it’s really frustrating getting so close and working so hard and just needing that extra push to make it.”

With the championships close at hand, the team has every reason to believe that historic highs are around the corner for Fordham. Only time will tell, of course, but so far, the story has been one of a meteoric rise. Hopefully, the success will only continue for the Fordham Athletic Department’s best-kept secret.