The Assistant Sailing Coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, Alicia Blumenthal loves helping others become better sailors.

“I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island in Bellport, New York and was 5 when I began sailing,” says Ali, who lives in Stonington. “My parents put me in classes through the Bellport Bay Sailing Foundation. They thought sailing would be a good skill for me to have, but couldn’t have guessed it would become an integral part of my life.”

“When I first started, I hated sailing,” Ali chuckles. “I especially hated wind. I’d start crying in the car the second I saw the flag at the yacht club flying straight out. I took every class twice before moving to the next level. At some point, I realized I really liked racing. The 2004 Opti Nationals were being hosted by my yacht club, and I begged my parents to let me race. I sailed in Green fleet, and that’s when my love of the sport truly started.”

“My high school did not have a sailing team, so I pursued other avenues of sailing year ‘round. I joined the LISOT 420 Team and trained and traveled to events with them. Eventually, I transitioned to sailing I420s and racing in international events. I’ve had a lot of amazing coaches and teammates that I’ve learned so much from. One that stands out is Greg Fisher, the Sailing Director while I was at the College of Charleston. I distinctly remember sailing upwind for miles in a four-boat line-up, with Greg behind us commenting on the smallest adjustments for sail trim. His attention to detail is astounding, and I try to model my own coaching after him.”

During my freshman year, Greg asked me to crew on a J/22 for Charleston Race Week. I immediately said, ‘Yes!’ even though I had zero experience on a keelboat. It was Greg, Joanne Fisher, and Jeff Eiber on the boat. I learned so much, and it didn’t hurt that we ended up winning the J/22 Class. In humble Greg fashion, he insisted on having myself and his young daughter go up to receive the trophy.”

Ali also helped coach the College of Charleston Development Sailing Team. “The Development Team was started by my fiancé Sam Stokes. Sam sailed at CofC, and graduated a few years before me. He and others saw a need for more access to sailing for students that didn’t make the Varsity Dinghy or Offshore teams. The team was created to help retain up-and-coming sailors so that eventually they might be able to re-try out for the Varsity team. The fall after graduation, I was approached by Justin Assad, the Head Sailing Coach at Dartmouth College. He asked if I was interested in the Assistant job. I said, ‘Yes,’ and the rest is history.”

“I’ve been coaching at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy since the fall of 2020. I loved working at Dartmouth and learned an incredible amount from Justin, but felt CGA was the next step in terms of my development as a coach. What we have at the Academy is very special – the facilities and access to different boats is amazing, and the support for the program is just like any other D1 Varsity program.”

“David Thompson, the CGA Head Dinghy Coach, and I worked together at Dartmouth. The thing I like best about working with David is that he’s always coming up with ideas to make the team better. He truly cares about each team member and wants to figure out the absolute best way to help them improve. We compliment each other well and bring different strengths to coaching the team.”

A passionate and accomplished match racer, Ali is a founding member of Team BAAM USA. “The original team was made up of myself, Allie Blecher, Beka Schiff and Molly Nobel,” she explains. “Beka, Allie, Ali, Molly: B, A, A, M. Over the past few years though, we’ve sailed with lots of different people. Depending on what type of boat we’re sailing, our fourth person rotates between several very talented female sailors. Most recently, we placed 4th at the U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championships. We won the 2019 U.S. Women’s Match Racing Champs, and placed 2nd at the New Zealand Women’s Match Race Nationals in 2018.”

Ali is a member of the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s (ICSA) Communications and Nominating committees. “The Nominating Committee’s role is to collect and make recommendations to the Board of Directors on the best candidates for different positions within the ICSA. As a member of the Communications Committee, I help run the College Sailing social media accounts, send out press releases, and manage announcements from the ICSA.”

Giving back at the place she started, Ali’s coaching at the John W. Everitt Advanced Racing Clinic, hosted by Bellport Yacht Club this month. “I and some other Bellport Sailing coaches, most notably Zach Runci, thought it would be cool to start an advanced racing clinic on the bay. John Everitt was the Bellport Bay Sailing Foundation President while I was young. It was his dream to foster competitive racing on the bay, especially for juniors. His family agreed to name the clinic after him, and help support it each year. This is our third year, and I’ll be coaching the Club 420 group.”

“Outside of competitive sailing, I enjoy kiteboarding and cruising with my family on my parents’ Southerly 110,” says Ali. “My favorite part of sailing is that it allows me to enter a sort of flow state. I don’t have to focus on anything else except the wind, waves, and competition. It’s like meditation with the added bonus of being outside, usually in beautiful places.” ■

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