The Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) governs secondary school sailing in the United States, in both independent and public high schools. Sailor eligibility starts at the ninth grade; there are no age limits. As in college sailing, there are seven district associations which schedule events, as well as a system of national championships. While ISSA had its origins in the preparatory schools of the Northeast in 1930, it is now a nationwide organization with active districts in Northeast (NESSA), Mid-Atlantic (MASSA), South Atlantic (SAISA), Southeast (SEISA), Midwest (MISSA), Pacific Coast (PCISA), and Northwest (NWISA).
Schools schedule dual meets for team racing and compete in open and closed fleet racing events, mostly in doublehanded dinghies. There is some single-handed competition, and there is a National Singlehanded Championship (Cressy Trophy). School teams reach the Nationals by competing successfully in district championships. Other National Championships are the Baker Trophy for team racing and the Mallory for two-division fleet racing in doublehanded dinghies.
The Mallory, the oldest trophy, was donated by Clifford D. Mallory in 1930 when he headed NAYRU and was Commodore of Indian Harbor Yacht Club, which hosted the first Nationals in Atlantic Class sloops. Few schools have boats, so school sailing is very grateful for the support it receives from colleges and universities, community sailing programs and yacht clubs throughout the country, Community Boating (Boston, MA) alone hosts 19 Boston-area high schools. The U.S. Naval Academy hosted the Mallory and Cressy competitions for some years; however the championships are scheduled around the country. In the past few years, school sailing has developed rapidly, and it continues to do so. A ‘grass roots’ program, the Interscholastic Sailing Association has enjoyed support from US SAILING, USSF, ASAP (Sail America) and NSIA as well as the active participation of many volunteers and benefactors who see this opportunity for young sailors as a natural partner to junior and youth sailing, as well as excellent preparation for the large number of school sailors who go on to college sailing and beyond.
When Steve Leslie stepped down as President, he had already set in motion actions which would help mould the future. By reviving the newsletter and initiating better external communication, he opened the door. By 1990, six of an eventual seven national districts became active and qualifiers began to be used for selection to the National Championship, the Mallory Trophy competition.
In 1990, the US Naval Academy’s High School Invitational Regatta trophy, the Cressy Trophy was rededicated as the ISYRA Singlehanded Championship and was won by Brett Davis of Largo High School (FL). The first Team Racing Nationals were held at the US Coast Guard Academy, won by Tabor Academy (MA) and a trophy dedicated to NESSA and ISYRA past-President and Tabor coach Toby Baker was presented to the association. The Connecticut Sailing League under Nancy Healy initiated open Fall regattas and the Mallory Trophy itself was recovered from the Peabody Museum where it had been stored for some years. Both Mallory and Cressy are on display at the Naval Academy’s Robert Crown Sailing Center. 1990 was also the first year that ISYRA medals were awarded to sailors of top teams at Nationals, with plaques for their schools. Procedural Rules were proposed and drafted, based on college rules, and the overseas program was initiated.
Winners and top finishers at the three national championships were offered an opportunity to compete overseas against other top high school teams, at the British Schools Dinghy Racing Association (BSDRA) Team and Fleet Championships, at the Fastnet International Schools Regatta in Ireland and the National Schools Sailing Association (NSSA) International Schools Regatta in the UK. ISSA’s participation in the BSDRA program was initiated by Toby Baker and fittingly Tabor was the first US winner in 1990, the same year that Josh Adams was awarded ISYRA’s Sportsmanship Trophy, the Bullivant, named for former Tabor Head and IYRA President (1940-1941), Stuart Bullivant.
USYRU supported both the overseas program and production of new ISYRA publications - the Procedural Rules produced by a committee chaired by Ted King, a Race Management Guide prepared by Natalie King’s team, a booklet on "Starting a High School Team" initiated by Bill Collins, and a Coaching Manual produced from a draft by Toby Baker. With volunteer talent up to the printing stage and partial grants, steps could be taken to improve the quality of competition.
The 60th Anniversary Regatta at Coast Guard drew 40 schools nationwide, and Sam Anderson, Secretary Emeritus, produced the 60th Anniversary history booklet, dedicated to IYRA mentor Clifford Mallory who also donated the trophy that bears his name, a big sloop championship until the early 1970’s when it shifted to small high-performance dinghies, at the suggestion of then - St. George’s coach, Jeff Spranger.
By 1991, the IYRA/ISYRA archives had been established at Mystic Seaport with the help of a grant arranged by 1935 Mallory winner, James Rousmaniere, and allocations for berths at the national championships were partially based on memberships in districts. The shift away from selection by resume had started, towards selection through district eliminations. A proposal was made to put the administration of the growing organization in the hands of a paid Executive Director. The willingness of the volunteers to continue carrying the administrative tasks with reimbursement of expenses only put this notion on the back burner.
ISYRA followed USYRU in 1992 and changed its name to InterScholastic Sailing Association when USYRU made the shift to US SAILING. Berths for ISSA nationals’ winners were obtained in the US SAILING Singlehanded Nationals (O'Day) and the Teams (Hinman). The O'Day competition proved especially rewarding for ISSA champions who routinely placed top five, and sometimes won, as did Brad Funk in 1997. The Hinman experiment has not been as successful, but ISSA’s top team sailors have been on Hinman teams which have done well.
Rotation of championship venues away from the two service academies, Coast Guard for the Baker and the Naval Academy for the Mallory/Cressy started in 1993, with the Mallory/Cressy crossing the country to Newport Harbor (CA) hosted by the Pacific district (PCISA) and the Baker in Mid-Atlantic (MASSA) at St. Mary’s College (MD) where former Lawrenceville sailor Adam Werblow was coach and a willing host. Newport Harbor High School (CA) won the Baker that year and the Bullivant as a team. In 1994 that same team was awarded the US SAILING National Sportsmanship Award, the VanAlan Clark. Recognition of top sailors and teams became a hot topic, which ultimately was resolved by making favorable mention of national champions only, there being no other way to gauge comparative worth of sailors and teams with no intersectional system of competition. Crowding of the schedule was already an issue, which was encouraging the shift of events to the Fall, not until now a sailing season for schools dedicated to multiple sports experiences for their students. The American Sail Advancement Program (ASAP) made a substantial grant to ISSA which made possible the production of a promotional video to encourage development of school sailing as well as a start towards a longer program, help with production of publications and expanded distribution of an improved newsletter, prepared by Jeff Spranger and Betsy McClintock, now published four times a year. Membership has grown at more than 10% per year since and now tops 225 in seven active districts, similar to those used in college sailing.
Ethics and knowledge of the racing rules are a constant concern, what with the moving population in school sailing. A program to encourage both is integral to ISSA’s objectives. In 1995, the Coaching Manual was published, in 1998 soon to be part of US SAILING’s developing Coaching Program. The first ISSA Directory and yearbook was published in 1995 as well, with the help of a new ally, the National Sailing Industry Association (NSIA), who also helps underwrite expanded newsletter distribution.
Dues in 1940 were $25 per school, but by 1989 they had been placed at $10. With the increasing demands of the association for growth, a development plan conceived by Jay Readinger was put in place, a plan which initiated a program of donations and adult memberships, and started a progression in dues from $10 to $50 per school over a several year period. The goal was self-sufficiency, and it is nearly reached.
Rotation of championship among districts is well established, as well as conscious effort to work with boat suppliers and colleges to ease the burden on the organizers and manufacturers in providing matched fleets for nationals.
Many people make things happen for school sailors: national officers like Roy Williams (VP) who leads most of the new projects, Nancy Healy (VP) and Ray Teborek (VP) whose experience enriches the Board, districts sparked by a succession of leaders like Cappy Capper, Jim Elvart, Ray Teborek and now Rick Wolney (Midwest) or Berry Hayley now Jim Casesa (South Atlantic); John Manard, Chip Carpenter and Walter Chamberlain now Robin Rafferty and Tony Smythe (Southeast), Rick Hilton, Tom Donohue and now Betty Minson and Bill Schneider (Mid Atlantic), Bill Wakeman, George Twist, Tim Hogan and now Michael Segerblom (Pacific). John DeMeyer who woke up the Northwest and the keystone district, New England, in recent years led by Wally Gleekman, Fritz Mark, Nancy Healy, Ron Knight and now Roger Rawlings.
None was more dedicated for such a long time as Ted King, who died suddenly in 1996. Ted was a friend and mentor, a Board member and Vice-President, and a mainspring of so many vital efforts for young sailors within ISSA and elsewhere. US SAILING recognized his lifework with its highest honor, the Herreshoff Trophy, presented posthumously and accepted by Ted’s widow, Natalie, at US SAILING Centenary celebration in October 1997. Natalie who has been on Board since 1980 still serves, now as Race Management expert.
The Board of ISSA is truly national, as is the organization itself, and high school sailors are now routinely on college varsities. The ICYRA All-Americans are a roster of former school sailors, as now are many athletes with Olympic or other top sailing campaigns. It’s all part of the continuum which helps young sailors in the US to develop, a continuum of which ISSA is proud to be a part.
IYRA - ISYRA - ISSA Presidents since 1930
|1989-2005||Lawrence A. White|
|1986-1989||Stephen B. Leslie|
|1973-1980||Talbot Baker, Jr.|
* Toby Baker served 1971-1972 while Ogilby was on sabbatical
|1952||Richard Gregg (for MacInnes who returned to USN duty)|
|1948-||Co-Chairs MacInnes and Maher|
|1940-1941||Stuart Bullivant, hiatus during WWII|