A Very Special Sailor

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Every once in a while information becomes available about a junior sailor who learned his skills right here on Manhasset Bay. Colin Kennedy, who is now in his senior-first year of graduate school for Aero Space Engineering at George Washington University, recently participated in the America’s Cup Endeavour Collegiate Sailing Intern Program hosted by the America’s Cup event authority.

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This program focuses on inspiring advanced professional development and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) career pathways by exposing students to the science and engineering behind the innovation that will be played out on the America’s Cup racecourse in Bermuda in May and June 2017.
Kennedy, a mechanical/aerospace engineering major, was chosen to participate in the Endeavour program after being named to the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s (ICSA) All-Academic Team in July. Some insight on what this talented young sailor is up to was posted on George Washington University’s www.sports.com, and below are some highlights from that interview.
The Oracle Team USA was part of the program and involved meeting with various Oracle team members and staff, as well as America’s Cup organizational staff. Kennedy met with team members Jimmy Spithill, Cooper Dressler and Andrew Campbell, Oracle’s Boat and Sail design team, Race CEO Russel Coutts and other Oracle/America’s Cup organizers. He trained alongside team members in their gym facility completing cardio workouts, strength workouts and boxing workouts that involved completing various punching combinations to test both mind and body. All this was during their stay in Bermuda. Not bad, right? Well, there is always a downside, and this story has one too. Kennedy and the other interns managed to be in Bermuda during Hurricane Nicole, with a direct pass over the island during the program. Nicole made it impossible for the interns to sail alongside and with the AC45 boats, but they did get up close to the boats as they were packed away for the hurricane. In the end, the program was cut short due to weather conditions, but the interns got a lot of insight into into the highest level of the sport of sailing.
After Bermuda, the interns went to Minden, NV, to see the North Sails 3Di-manufacturing facility. For those unfamiliar with 3Di technology, which is most of us, 3Di is a relatively new technology in the sailing market where they utilize carbon fiber filaments and resin to create a sail that is much lighter, stronger and more durable than many sails in the past. The process is similar to creating carbon fiber or fiberglass material, but 3Di creates filaments that are thin enough to be light but also flexible and strong. I would assume down the road, this 3Di technology will be available for the high-end racers on Long Island Sound.
One of Colin’s favorite parts about being an intern was meeting the top of industry professionals. These are the very people that Colin may interact with as he moves forward in his career. He commented that although he wished they could have sailed across the Bermuda Sound, he was very happy to be able to see the technology and design that creates a boat that races up to 35 mph in winds less than 10 mph. For all you Long Island sailors reading this, just think about it…only 10 mph. That would be some ride on LIS.
Kennedy concluded the interview with some thoughts on how the internship would prepare him for the future. He said, “This internship will help me gain more connections in the sailing industry as well as give me an idea of how I may be able to put myself in a position to be hired or sail for an America’s Cup Team, Volvo Ocean Race Team or any other professional sailing team. I am able to see myself more and more as not only being a sailor, but also an engineer that’s a valuable asset in multiple ways rather than being just one or the other.” He added, “The most important part that I learned from this internship is that there are so many people involved in the program who have gotten to where they are simply by being one of the hardest workers and willing to absorb as much information as possible. What many people said is that they would rather hire someone who is hardworking and has a great attitude because it is a lot easier to teach someone to sail better, but much harder to deal with someone who does not have the drive or attitude to learn.”
Lest readers think that young Colin Kennedy just got lucky to find this internship, 2016 was a banner year for this amazing sailor. Last April, the university held its annual Outstanding Academic Achievement Awards dinner where seven George Washington University student-athletes were recognized as Outstanding Academic Achievement Award recipients and Distinguished Scholars. Kennedy, who majored in mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, carried a 3.94 cumulative GPA. He has been named to the GW Athletics Academic Dean’s List in each of his six completed semesters, including a perfect 4.0 in Fall 2013 and Spring 2015.
While Kennedy learned to sail here on Manhasset Bay at the Port Washington Yacht Club Junior Sailing Program, he is most likely to be found out in Oyster Bay at Oakcliff Sailing. He is a 2015 graduate of their Sapling program, which is Oakcliff Sailing’s offering for sailors who are considering sailing as a career. In the summer-long program, Oakcliff Sailing trains the sailors in all of the skills they need to succeed in professional sailboat racing. Check out what Oakcliff Sailing has to say about “one of the most valuable sailors on the Oakcliff team” at www.oakcliffsailing.org.
Having said all this, the very best part is this Kennedy is the most modest, kind and fun to be around sailors. If you get a chance to meet him, it will be instantly apparent why so many in the sailing community admire him. Congratulations on one spectacular year!

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Andrea Watson is a Port Washington-based maritime photographer and journalist. She writes Port Washington News' column On The Bay and is currently the Executive Secretary of the Yacht Racing Association of Long Island Sound (YRALIS).

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