Sailing Leadership Institute - Christopher Newport University Sailing Leadership Institute - Christopher Newport University
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Christopher Newport's Sailing Leadership Institute

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Option A: June 14-21, 2020 
Option B: June 14-19, 2020 (U.S. Sailing Youth Championships rate)

Check-in will start at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 14.

Application deadline is June 10, 2020.

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.

"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, 2018 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. Our 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 presentations from guest speakers. In the past, Fathom has invited a variety of speakers, including yacht designers, sail makers, sport psychologists and professional sailors to showcase the multiple career avenues in sailing as well as what it takes to become a leaders in the industry.

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 industry's leading 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 14-21 and is open to anyone aged 15-18. Younger sailors may inquire and will be admitted on a case-by-case basis. Option B is a special rate for participants wishing to attend Fathom but who were invited to Pensacola Yacht Club for the U.S. Sailing Youth Championships on June 20.

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. A maximum of 30 students can attend the clinic. There is a $500 non-refundable registration fee.

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.

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


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.


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.

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.


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.

Option A: June 14-21, 2020 Option B: June 14-19, 2020 (U.S. Sailing Youth Championships rate)

June 10, 2020.

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.

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).

Yes. All participants must pass a swim test and be able to tread water unassisted for three minutes.

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). A laptop is also required.

Yes, however, please clear this with the coaching staff by contacting

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.

Yes. Rising high school seniors can schedule an admission interview with a university fellow.

If you have any additional questions please email