URI names alumnus, R.I. native as new head sailing coach

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KINGSTON, R.I. – August 20, 2013 – The University of Rhode Island has named a former Olympic gold-medal winning coach and alumnus as the new head coach of the University’s renowned club sailing team for the 2013-2014 season.

“URI is my alma mater,” said Rollin “Skip” Whyte. “I’m looking forward to returning and helping to build on the team’s foundation of excellence.”

Whyte joins one of URI’s most successful teams, varsity or otherwise. Two years ago, the five-member women’s sailing team won the Sperry Top-Sider/Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s National Championship, marking URI’s first women’s national small boat sailing title in the University’s 75-year history of the sport. The men’s sailing team has also won 11 national keelboat titles. Among its alumni, the program counts several Olympians and 26 All-Americans.

Whyte has a long résumé of college coaching experience. The Wickford, R.I., resident served as the head sailing coach at Boston University twice (from 1976 until 1985, and again in 1992 until 1995), leading the team, which was slated to be dropped, to six national titles and numerous regional championships, as well as improving the co-ed and women’s team rankings to “top 10” and “top five” positions. In addition, from 1989 to 1992, Whyte served as both head sailing coach and assistant sailing master at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, directing all freshman and varsity activities as well as teaching physical education classes each semester to 120 novice sailors.

Whyte also spent 17 years as an Olympic sailing coach for the United States Olympic Yachting Committee. During that time, he coached the U.S. sailing teams to five Olympic medal performances, including gold in 2004. From 1975 to 1989, Whyte served as vice president and general manager of Can Am Sailcraft, Inc., a sailboard and sailboat dealership out of Cambridge, Mass. Most recently, he coached and consulted as the sole proprietor for 1st Place Sailing, working with various clients including Olympic aspirants, collegiate sailing teams, and semi-professional sport boats.

Whyte acknowledges that serving as head coach for club sport sailing teams brings its own set of challenges. “When I began coaching at Boston University, the team was in bad shape,” he said. “Four years later, we had won our first national championship. It’s harder now to turn things around like that, but it’s doable. You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run.”

As for competing as a club sport: “It’s an extra special challenge. You’re up against teams with more resources and distinction,” Whyte said. “But it’s achievable. And I like a challenge.”

Whyte received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and secondary education from URI. He was the recipient of the Albert LeBoeuf award for outstanding male athlete during his senior year.

This news release was written by Rachel Donilon, a writer in URI’s department of Marketing and Communications.


OLYMPIC COACH AND ALUMNUS: Skip Whyte of Wickford, R.I., University of Rhode Island’s new head sailing coach and former Olympic gold-medal winning sailing coach. Whyte is a URI alumnus. (Photo courtesy of Skip Whyte)

SAILING CHAMPION: Skip Whyte, left, of Wickford, R.I., University of Rhode Island’s new head sailing coach, competes at a recent sailing event. Whyte is a URI alumnus and former Olympic gold-medal winning sailing coach. (Photo courtesy of Skip Whyte)