Christopher Newport's Sailing Leadership Institute
June 18 - 25, 2017

Application deadline is June 1, 2017.

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 be first at the mark amongst your competitors during this one-week immersion experience.

Fathom, a sailing leadership institute, offers select high school students an incredible opportunity to explore the many facets of leadership with CNU professor Elizabeth Gagnon in the morning and then apply them during on the water training sessions in the afternoon led by CNU head sailing coach Maxwell Plarr.

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 along the James River allows for easy access and an amazing open water venue for practice. The Christopher Newport Sailing Center offers locker rooms, classrooms, and has a new fleet of eighteen T420s as well as FJs, lasers, and assorted other dinghies, ribs, 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 will debut a new America’s Cup Exhibit for May 2017 to include Oracle Team USA AC72, winner and defender of the 34th America’s Cup hosted by the Golden Gate Yacht Club in San Francisco.

The Mariners’ Museum America’s Cup Exhibit will also be the back drop for a presentation from Britton Ward, Vice President, Senior Naval Architect and shareholder at Farr Yacht Design in Annapolis, MD. Britton 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 received a Masters in Ocean Engineering from MIT before joining Farr in 1996. Britton’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, Britton was highly involved with the research teams for multiple Whitbread / Volvo and America’s Cup programs including 2003 and 2007 Oracle campaigns as well as the lead designer of the Volvo 65 for the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race.

CNU has also teamed up with Hampton Yacht Club to provide participants the opportunity to sail in the club’s fleet of Sonars and potentially other keelboats. 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 it’s kind between New York and Charleston, and has produced some of the industries leading industry professionals including Steve Hunt, Rob Overton, and Gary Bodie.

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 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 18-25 and is open to anyone in the high school age range of 15-18. *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.

Apply Now!

For more information, please contact Maxwell Plarr, Head Sailing Coach at (610) 417-5529 or maxwell.plarr@cnu.edu

The Program

Fathom- or First At The Mark introduces participants at a glimpse of what life is like as a college sailor with morning classroom interaction and on the water practice. The classroom portion will be held in the morning and taught by veteran leadership professor, Dr. Elizabeth Gagnon. The Fathom Curriculum focuses on several leadership themes that are actively found in sailing and in a team environment. Dr. Gagnon’s focus is to build the necessary foundation, strength builders, and confidence for campers that will extend beyond Fathom to lead life on and off the water.

During the afternoon campers will be sailing out of the Christopher Newport Sailing Center or Hampton Yacht Club (HYC) with CNU head sailing coach Maxwell Plarr. Coach Plarr will relate the themes learned from Dr. Gagnon’s class into practical application for on the water training and development. Participants will have access to CNU’s fleet of eighteen T420s, FJs, lasers, and HYC’s fleet of Sonars. On the water training will cover topics in tactics, strategy, sail trim, team racing, communication, fitness, and grit, which include multiple aspects of team work and leadership. Students will also be exposed to leading sailing industry professionals in the fields of Yacht Design, Sail-making, and Coaching that turned their passions into well 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 24th, The Mariners’ Museum will also be presenting to Fathom and CNU’s Summer Humanities Institute (SHI) students on navigation. Fathom participants will also have their chance to demonstrate their leadership skills while sailing the James River with their SHI contemporaries.

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

Life at CNU

Sailing Leadership Institute 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?

Fathom is a non-credit course focused on fun leadership development and strengths for sailing. If you are looking for a credit-bearing summer course please check out CNU's Summer Humanities Institute.

What are the dates for the Fathom?

The program begins June 18 and concludes June 25, 2017.

When is the registration deadline?

June 1, 2017.

If I’m a local student, 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 develop individuals to achieve their future goals in sailing and the sailing industry. However, a large racing background is not required though desirable.

Must I be able to swim to participate in Fathom?

Yes, all participants are required to pass a swim test on Day 1 of the institute and be able to tread water, unassisted, for three minutes.

What sailing gear should I bring?

Be prepared as if you were packing for a week long regatta: PFD, Whistle, Dinghy Boots, Sunscreen, hat, other spray gear, wet suit, etc. is recommended.

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?

Our 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?

Absolutely! Rising seniors will have time to 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.


The cost for participants in a double room is $1000 and includes the following:

  • Classroom fee
  • Charter fee
  • 7 nights of lodging (double occupancy, CNU Residence Hall)*
  • 20 meals
  • Transportation and admission to all off-campus events

*Linens and towels are not provided; each student should bring their own.

The cost for participants in a single room is $1200.


Christopher Newport's Sailing Leadership Institute
June 18 - 25, 2017

Application deadline is June 1, 2017.