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Dartmouth’s Top-Ranked Sailing Teams Set to Move into State-of-the-Art Boathouse

In the competitive recruiting world of collegiate sailing, gifts to Dartmouth’s new boathouse and boat barn will provide a big advantage—and serve the entire community.

A photo of the new sailing boathouse under construction.

Jun 13, 2024

5 minute read

James Bressor

Athletics Giving News

Dartmouth is constructing a new home for two of its most successful Big Green teams. 

Thanks to a fundraising effort well underway, Dartmouth’s two sailings teams, women’s and open, will move into a new boathouse on Mascoma Lake this fall. The combined cost of the new boathouse and adjacent boat barn is $13 million, with philanthropic giving providing the full amount. Dartmouth has already received commitments of more than $8 million toward the project. 

A photo of the new sailing boathouse under construction.

Dartmouth sailors have captured five national championships over the past 50 years, graduating 53 All-Americans, and both teams continue to consistently rank among the nation’s top collegiate sailing programs. 

The new boathouse will build on these successes, providing current team members with modern equipment and more practice time. In the exceptionally competitive recruiting world of collegiate sailing, the facility will also help Dartmouth vie against other top programs for sought-after high-performing sailors. 

“Dartmouth’s sailing program was established in 1932, and we’ve functioned at a high level of competitive excellence for a long time,” says Head Coach Justin Assad. “The new boathouse is going to be a state-of-the-art facility that reflects Dartmouth’s investment in sailing. It will allow us to maximize our time at the lake and to offer a more efficient and enriching experience for our student-athletes.”  

The project’s lead donors, who wish to remain anonymous, say they were inspired by the work ethic of Dartmouth sailors and the impact of the sport. “We saw the need for a new sailing facility at Dartmouth and decided to get involved. Sailing is one of the most difficult and character-building sports you can do. Students that are privileged enough to sail at Dartmouth have worked their whole lives for that opportunity. We wanted to see a building that would support the excellence and the future of the program.” 

In addition to providing facilities for the two sailing teams, the new boathouse and boat barn will serve the entire Dartmouth and Upper Valley communities. Every summer, more than 60 sophomores opt to sail for physical education credit, and the space hosts children’s camps throughout the summer. In addition, Dartmouth’s boathouse and fleet will continue to serve recreational sailors in the Upper Valley. 

“The new boathouse and boat barn will elevate the sailing teams’ experience on and off the water, making our program even more competitive while also serving the wider community. We are grateful to our donors for sharing this ambition to take our program to even greater heights, and we are especially thankful for the anonymous lead donors whose vision and generosity have enabled us to begin work on these buildings,” says Mike Harrity, the Haldeman Family Director of Athletics and Recreation. “Our ongoing investments in facilities, coupled with our commitment to supporting outstanding coaches and providing programs such as Dartmouth Peak Performance, underscore our dedication to the holistically developing student-athlete.”


A successful program in need of new facilities 

The new facilities on Mascoma Lake will replace the Allen Boathouse, constructed in the early 1950s and named for the much-loved sailing coach Art Allen Jr. ’32. The facility served Dartmouth sailors for seven decades but had not been significantly renovated for many years. “It was a pretty spartan operation,” says Assad, noting that among the building’s multiple shortcomings, the locker rooms stayed so wet and muddy that most sailors changed while standing on benches. 

A photo of the new sailing boathouse under construction.

Steve Blecher ’64 remembers joining with fellow sailing team members to add cooking facilities to the Allen Boathouse while also improving the maintenance areas and purchasing kerosene and firewood to heat the building. This was a time when the program didn’t have a coach and students needed to drive their own cars, or hitchhike, to Mascoma Lake and regattas across New England. 

“The Allen Boathouse was a cinder block affair that was built for boat maintenance and storage of our small fleet, and it got expanded over the years with some auxiliary storage sheds,” he says. “In the ’60s, we began to realize that we needed more than just boat storage and boat maintenance. Through the ’70s and ’80s, we dreamed about putting a second story on the building. However, an engineering study said the building had gotten to the point where it wouldn’t support a second story, so that idea died.” 

The new multi-level boathouse will feature much-improved facilities for team members, including custom-built lockers, drying equipment, and a classroom-style team room, as well as multiple indoor, deck, and patio spaces that will be available to other members of the Dartmouth community, regatta spectators, and area sailors.

The new boathouse and boat barn will elevate the sailing teams’ experience on and off the water, making our program even more competitive while also serving the wider community.
- Mike Harrity
    Haldeman Family Director of Athletics and Recreation

Maclay Associates of Waitsfield, Vermont, the firm that designed the new Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, developed the boathouse’s design. Although much smaller in scale, the building will echo the lodge’s lines and natural finishes.  

Only steps away from the new boathouse, Dartmouth is constructing a 4,000-square-foot boat barn capable of housing up to 22 sailboats with their masts up and rigged, and an additional 14 boats in storage. The boat barn will be the first in Dartmouth history, and housing boats with their masts up will add approximately 20 minutes of actual sailing time each time the teams practice, says Assad. “It will be like adding a week of practice by the end of the season,” he says. Only Old Dominion and Stanford have a similar facility for their team boats.  

Work on the new boathouse and boat barn has begun, and both are on schedule for completion before the beginning of the fall sailing season. 

 “This has been a dream for 60 years,” says Blecher, who—with his son Jeff, a member of the Class of 1998 who also sailed for Dartmouth—has made a gift toward the new boathouse. “Competition for experienced sailors is intense. If you’re a high school sailor, Dartmouth wouldn’t be the first school you’d think of attending to sail at the collegiate level. Justin and his predecessors have done a very good job recruiting over the years, even with the facilities they’ve had. The new boathouse will enhance the program’s ability to recruit topflight sailing talent.”  

Assad says the boathouse, although still under construction, is already benefitting the program’s recruiting efforts. 

“We currently have several of the best sailors in the country, including a few world-champion youth sailors, so we recruit competitively with the other top programs in the country. The best sailors go to the Ivy League and Stanford pretty much year in and year out,” he says. “The new boathouse is giving us an extra boost. It’ll be much nicer than the facilities at Brown, Yale, Harvard, and Cornell, our principal competitors when recruiting.” 

Fundraising for the boathouse and boat barn is in full swing, and multiple naming opportunities—including the boat barn, the main room with its large gas fireplace, and the lakeside porch featuring stunning views of Mascoma Lake—are available for prospective donors interested in making a major gift toward the project. Commitments may be paid over five years. 

For more information about the program and gift opportunities, please contact Jennifer Casey in the university’s Advancement Division.