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Wood Sailing Pavilion

See also: Varsity Sailing Team

MIT, and specifically the MIT Sailing Pavilion, is known as the "birthplace of intercollegiate sailing."



Sailing is very popular on campus: approximately 1400 members of the MIT community learn to sail each year, and MIT Sailing issues 2,000 sailing cards annually.

Among the many benefits and accomplishments of the MIT Sailing Program, these stand out:

  • The largest Recreational Collegiate Sailing Program (2000 members)
  • Most National Dinghy Championship Titles (11)
  • Most National Sportmansip Awards (4)
  • Host of most intercollegiate regattas each year (average 20)
  • Consistently ranked in top 15 of 270 schools nationally
  • Teach about 20% of the entire (grad and undergrad) student population at MIT how to sail through our volunteer led lessons
  • Open for recreational sailing 7 days/week from April through November
  • Host to state champs for high school, under 14, under 19 and Special Olympics every year

Sailing Pavilion

The MIT Sailing Pavilion (Building 51), the first facility constructed for college sailing, was built in 1935. Today, it bears the name of one of its founders, Walter Cromwell "Jack" Wood '17—the Walter C. Wood Sailing Pavilion.

The Sailing Pavilion is located on the MIT campus across Memorial Drive from Walker Memorial and sits on the Charles River Basin. Its address is 134 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139

The MIT Sailing Pavilion holds more collegiate regattas than any other site in the US.

In addition to intercollegiate activity, the Pavilion is busy with a regular schedule of club racing, teaching, and recreational sailing.

MIT provides practice time for local colleges and high schools who do not have boats and sites of their own. Currently, the sailing teams from the following colleges and universities practice and race from the MIT Pavilion: Brandeis, Northeastern, and Wellesley College.

As a service to the local sailing community, MIT runs championships for Massachusetts and New England secondary schools and Massachusetts Bay Yacht Clubs that include ladder events for US sailing. MIT has run the Massachusetts Bay Midget Championship for youngsters 13 and under every year since its inception in 1951.

We regularly have cookouts, trips to the Boston Harbor Islands, and moonlight sails. We also act as a base for research and testing of equipment for MIT's Sea Grant Program.


MIT has over 100 sailboats in its fleet. The Tech Dinghy (designed by the MIT Naval Architecture Department) continues to be the most-used boat. MIT is now on its fifth fleet of Techs, however these will shortly be replaced with the sixth generation. A prototype of the new generation is currently avaliable to sail at the pavilion. MIT also boasts fleets of Lasers, FJs, and Lynx 16 catboats as well as 420s, a Hobie catamaran, and sailboards. Sailing master Fran Charles is also working to bring to the pavilion a fleet of Fireflies, a racing boat popular in England, to serve as a more advanced alternative to the Tech Dinghy.

Tech Dinghy

George Owen 1894, who headed the Department of Naval Architecture, drew up plans for a boat eventually dubbed the "Tech Dinghy," and Erwin Schell '12, head of MIT's business administration course, set about raising funds to build a small fleet of them. As MIT's first sailing master, Wood then presided over that 48-boat fleet at a new pavilion, and MIT hosted its first intercollegiate sailing competition in 1937.

Owen's design for the Tech Dinghy was ingenious, incorporating both cat and sloop rigging to maximize performance for highly skilled sailors while providing stability for novices. Although the boat has evolved—it's now in its fifth generation—its great balance remains its defining feature. In 1953, the second generation of the dinghy hit the water, a fiberglass hull replacing Owen's wooden one. For the third generation, Halsey Herreshoff, SM '60, increased the height of its sides to prevent it from taking on water; for the fourth, he heightened the mast. And in 2004, MIT sailors launched the fifth generation of the dinghy, which has flotation tanks that make it easier to right when it capsizes. The sixth generation of Tech Dinghy will arrive en masse at the pavilion soon. The first prototype of the fleet, the "G6" has a carbon fiber hull making it approximately 100 pounds lighter than the current model. It also sports a smaller rudder, tapered mast, and a mylar sail specially designed for reefing which eliminates the need for storm sails on windy days.

Generation 6 Tech Dinghy

In typical MIT fashion, the Tech Dinghy has featured in several hacks—appearing fully rigged on the small dome of Building 7, in the Alumni Pool, and in the campus chapel's moat. Institute presidents including Karl Compton, Paul Gray, and Susan Hockfield have sailed Tech Dinghies. And every year, 1,200 to 1,400 students take sailing lessons, and even more take the 37 boats now in the fleet out on the Charles.

History A number of colleges had sailing clubs in the late 1800s; however, these were primarily social clubs consisting of private boat owners.

The first ten Dinghy Championships of the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association (now ICSA) were sailed on the Charles River in MIT's fleet of Tech Dinghies.

The trophy awarded to the winning team in the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Coed Dinghy National Championship is named the Henry A. Morss Memorial Trophy, in memory of MIT alumnus and sailing benefactor Henry Morss 1893.

This trophy awarded to the winning team at the ICSA Team Race National Championship is named the Walter C. Wood Trophy, in memory of Jack Wood, MIT's first sailing director and co-founder of college racing.

Sailing Classes

During the season (from April to mid-November), the club runs beginning sailing classes on Wednesday afternoons. These classes are run in series, with the new sailor attending a total of three classes to learn all the material. During the summer additional beginning classes are offered on Sundays. Students will attend a single Sunday class are are given a barrage of information which they are expected to practice on their own time. Classes are free and are open to all MIT community members with athletic privileges.

In the spring and fall, the coaches run Physical Education sailing classes. During the summer the club administers three racing programs: beginners' racing classes on Monday nights, advanced tech racing on Tuesdays, and intermediate/advanced racing on Thursdays. During the Fall and Spring Intercollegiate seasons, the club holds advanced tech racing on Monday evenings. Summer evening club racing in Techs typically gets all of the boats out on the river. In the summer, the club also teaches sailing to young children in MIT's day camp.

Moonlight Sailing

Every month, right around the days of the full moon, the Sailing Pavilion remains open until midnight. MITNA members with a Provisional rating can take out a Lynx Catboat with up to five of their best friends, or strangers, for an unique experience under the moon.

The Catboats are outfitted with the necessary lights to go out after dark by the Pavillion staff . Then you're on your own sailing to the light of the moon.

Plus, starting at sunset the grill is turned on (bring your own food and drinks) for members and their guests to have dinner on the dock.

Because moon light sails tend to be extremely popular, we may ask that each party limit their outings to approximately 30 minutes to an hour. That way many people can go out on the one night per month event. And, since not all MITNA members have a Provisional rating, we appreciate when those members with the rating can take out a few people they may not know.


MIT sailors have played important roles in major competition and in the administration of sailing. Four former MIT students have represented the USA in Olympic sailing competition, winning a silver and a bronze medal. Paula Lewin '93, consistently ranked at the top of the Women's Professional Match Racing Circuit and represented Bermuda in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympics. Bob Hobbs, a former MIT undergraduate and graduate student, was president of US Sailing and earlier served as head of the ICYRA. To this day, the professionals of the MIT program are leading administrators of New England and national college sailing. Twelve MIT sailors are in College Sailing's Hall of Fame; five have been All-Americans, four Honorable Mentions, two All-Star crews, and two Women All-Americans.

Notable Alumni

  • Lt. Dominic Antonelli '89, NASA Astronaut
  • John Grunsfeld '80, NASA Astronaut
  • Sheila Widnall '60, MIT Aero/Astro Professor, former Secretary of the Air Force
  • Larry Bacow '72, President of Tufts University
  • William Brody '65 SM '66, President of the Salk Institute, former President of Johns Hopkins University
  • Amar Bose '51, founder, Bose Corporation
  • Colin Angle '89, CEO & co-founder, iRobot
  • Raymie Stata '90, Chief Technology Officer, Yahoo! Inc.
  • Brewster Kahle '82, founder of the Internet Archive and Alexa Internet
  • Charles Koch '57, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, the largest private company in the US
  • Bernard Gordon '48, invented Doppler Radar