The Syracuse University Sailing Team began as the “Syracuse University Yacht Club,” in 1937. The team was inactive in WWII, but was re-activated in 1947 by J. Gordon Bentley. Bentley (1929-2004) graduated in 1950. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Sailing Hall of Fame in 1971.
In the 1940s and 50s, the team was an associate member of the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association (ICYRA). The ICYRA would later become the present-day Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA).
In 1953, the team used the Onondaga Yacht Club to sail a fleet of 10 dinghies, purchased with money raised through boat fund bonds. In the 1956 Onondagan, the club is reported to have “a fleet of six dinghies at Lake Onondaga used for pleasure and intercollegiate regattas.”
The team was added as a varsity sport by the athletic department in 1953.
In 1954, the MIT Tech reports that the SU Sailing Team “captured the first place of the two-day series for the McMillan Cup,” which was sailed in 44-foot Luders Yawls. Syracuse finished first, MIT finished second, Cornell was third and Navy was fourth. However, the Navy website reports that Harvard won in 1954. The McMillan Cup is still an annual intercollegiate regatta.
Much like the current team’s “Learn to Sail” program, the 1950s club had a “Shore School” program, taught by members of the club. The 1956 Onondagan description of the club states “The club is open to all those interested in sailing – both those who wish to learn and the more experienced, who enjoy informal sailing and intercollegiate racing.”
A gap in knowledge exists from the late 1950s when the team was no longer mentioned in the Onondagan. We do know that the team used Onondaga Yacht Club to sail and practice in 1973. Our knowledge gap extends until the 1980s when we know several alumni who sailed on a team. A gap between the 1980s and mid 2000s also exists until the club was reactivated.