Christopher Newport's Sailing Leadership Institute
June 17 - 24, 2018

Option A: June 17-24, 2018
Option B: June 17-21, 2018 (US Sailing Youth Championships rate)

Application deadline is June 10, 2018.

Be a leader in life…on and off the water!

Experience the life of a college sailor at Christopher Newport University and learn how to become a better leader, a better teammate and first at the mark among your competitors during this one-week immersion experience.

"Fathom helped me realize so many things about leadership I’ve never noticed. Also, I was taught a lot more about sailing, and I would never have been able to meet such wonderful people without this program."
– Jacob, 2017 participant

Fathom is focused on developing leadership through the sport of sailing to select high school sailors. This is an incredible opportunity to explore the many facets of leadership throughout the sport with Dr. Elizabeth Gagnon from CNU's Department of Leadership and American Studies and apply them during on-the-water training sessions led by CNU sailing team head coach Maxwell Plarr.

"I’ve never had a coach as helpful as coach Max. I really enjoyed his excitement and passion for sailing. It was amazing how he was so approachable throughout the clinic and helpful whenever I asked him questions."
– Lenore, 2017 participant

Participants will live on campus while learning how communication, teamwork, confidence, adaptability and the core ideals of leadership will enhance your sailing tactics/strategy, trim, team racing and skills as a sailor to take your team to the championship – or help attain any goal in life.

Christopher Newport University’s location near the James River allows for easy access and an amazing open-water venue for practice. CNU's Sailing Center offers locker rooms, classrooms and has a fleet of 18 T420s, as well as FJs, lasers, and assorted other dinghies, RHIBs, and skiffs.

Conveniently located adjacent to the university is the Mariners’ Museum, the United States’ national maritime museum, and home to the largest collection of maritime artifacts in the Western Hemisphere. The museum debuted a new America’s Cup exhibit in May 2017 to include Oracle Team USA AC72, winner and defender of the 34th America’s Cup.

The America’s Cup exhibit will also be the backdrop for a presentation from Britton Ward, vice president, senior naval architect and shareholder at Farr Yacht Design in Annapolis, Maryland. Ward graduated from Webb Institute of Naval Architecture, where he was the captain of the sailing team and interned at Sparkman and Stevens in New York and Australia for America’s Cup measurer Ken McAlpine. Ward also earned a master's degree in ocean engineering from MIT before joining Farr in 1996.

Ward's primary responsibilities include conceptual design leadership and hull shape development of performance sailing yacht and powerboat projects as well as management and implementation of research and development programs. During his tenure at Farr, Ward was highly involved with the research teams for multiple Whitbread/Volvo and America’s Cup programs, including 2003 and 2007 Oracle campaigns. He was also lead designer of the Volvo 65 for the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race.

CNU has also teamed with Hampton Yacht Club (HYC) to provide participants the opportunity to race in the club’s fleet of Sonars. HYC has been a staple of the Southern Chesapeake Bay sailing community for generations and is the end point for the Storm Trysail/AYC/HYC Annapolis to Hampton Race, or better known as Down the Bay.

Hampton is also the host to Southern Bay Race Week, the largest event of its kind between New York and Charleston, South Carolina, and has produced some of the industries leading industry professionals, including Steve Hunt, Chris Behm, Rob Overton and Gary Bodie.

"Learning about seamanship really made me a more organized person. I also connected teamwork through sailing, especially on the Sonars."
– Da Yeon, 2017 Participant

Fathom will foster critical thinking to develop lessons learned on leadership and help you apply them directly to your sailing experience – lessons that will extend far beyond this camp and your ability to sail. The skills developed during this time will empower you to navigate life and leadership on and off the water.

The program runs from June 17-24 and is open to anyone aged 15-18. This year there will be a special rate for participants wishing to attend Fathom and then continue on to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, for the US Sailing Youth Championships.

Participants must have a basic background and knowledge of sailing, be able to swim 50 yards and tread water for three minutes. This is not a learn to sail camp. Only 30 students will be selected.

The Program

Fathom introduces participants to what life is like as a college sailor with morning classroom interaction and on-the-water practice. The classroom portion will be taught by Dr. Elizabeth Gagnon from CNU's Department of Leadership and American Studies. The Fathom curriculum focuses on several leadership themes that are actively found in sailing and in a team environment. Gagnon’s focus is to build the necessary foundation, strength builders, and confidence for campers that will extend beyond Fathom and help you lead life on and off the water.

During the afternoon campers will sail out of the Christopher Newport Sailing Center or Hampton Yacht Club (HYC) with CNU sailing team head coach Maxwell Plarr. Plarr will relate the themes learned in Gagnon’s class to practical application for on-the-water training and development.

Participants will have access to CNU’s fleet of 18 T420s, FJs, lasers, and HYC’s fleet of Sonars. On-the-water training will cover topics that include multiple aspects of teamwork and leadership, such as:

  • Tactics
  • Strategy
  • Sail trim
  • Team racing
  • Communication
  • Fitness and grit

Participants will also be exposed to leading sailing industry professionals in the fields of yacht design, sail-making and coaching who turned their passions into rewarding careers.

Each evening campers will have an activity relevant to the daily topic with Dr. Gagnon or a debrief with Coach Plarr.

On Saturday June 23, Fathom and CNU’s Summer Humanities Institute participants will also have a chance to demonstrate their leadership skills while sailing the James River.

Students will also have full access to the incomparable resources of Christopher Newport University.


Maxwell Plarr
Head coach, Christopher Newport University sailing team

Dr. Elizabeth Gagnon
Lecturer, Department of Leadership and American Studies

Life at CNU

Fathom participants will stay in Christopher Newport’s modern, award-winning residence halls, which are furnished with spacious and comfortable bedrooms, computer labs, coin-operated laundry rooms, and television and recreation lounges.

Meals will be served on campus. Menus will vary but will offer plenty of variety and options. Transportation will be provided for all off-campus excursions and activities.


Will I receive credit for participating in Fathom?
No. Fathom is a non-credit course focused on fun leadership development and strengths for sailing. If you are looking for a for-credit summer program, you might be interested in CNU's Summer Humanities Institute.

When is Fathom?
Option A: June 17-24, 2018 Option B: June 17-21, 2018 (US Sailing Youth Championships rate)

When is the registration due date?
June 10, 2018

If I’m local, can I stay at home and still participate in Fathom?
No. All participants must remain in residence on campus for the duration of the program. One of the benefits of the immersion experience of Fathom is living life on campus just like a college sailor.

Must I be able to sail to attend Fathom?
Yes. Basic sailing skills are required. Fathom is designed to help develop leadership skills and help you achieve your future goals in sailing and the sailing industry. However, a large racing background is not required (although it is very desirable).

Do I have to know how to swim to participate in Fathom?
Yes. All participants must pass a swim test and be able to tread water unassisted for three minutes.

What sailing gear should I bring?
You should prepare as if you were packing for a week-long regatta (e.g., PFD, whistle, dinghy boots, sunscreen, hat, other spray gear, wet suit).

I have already been admitted to attend CNU in the fall, can I still attend Fathom?
Yes, however, please clear this with the coaching staff by contacting maxwell.plarr@cnu.edu.

I have special dietary needs. Can you accommodate me?
CNU's dining halls feature a variety of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options at every meal. If you have more specific needs, please contact us.

I’m interested in attending Christopher Newport as a student when I graduate from high school. Will I be able to interview for admission while I’m on campus?
Yes. Rising high school seniors can schedule an admission interview with a university fellow.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?
If you have any additional questions please email sailingteam@cnu.edu.


Option A: $1,050
Includes the following:

  • Classroom fee
  • Charter fee
  • 7 nights of lodging in a CNU residence hall (double occupancy)*
  • 19 meals
  • Transportation and admission to all off-campus events

Option B: $850
Option B is only for participants who will compete in the US Sailing Youth Championship in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, from June 23-27, 2018.

Includes the following:

  • Classroom fee
  • Charter fee
  • 4 nights of lodging in a CNU residence hall (double occupancy)*
  • 10 meals
  • Transportation and admission to all off-campus events

*Linens and towels are not provided. Participants must bring their own.


Christopher Newport's Sailing Leadership Institute
June 17 - 24, 2018

Option A: June 17-24, 2018
Option B: June 17-21, 2018 (US Sailing Youth Championships rate)

Application deadline is June 10, 2018.