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Kristen Healy continues the family tradition of college sailing, picks Fordham

Bill and Laura Healy of Niantic met when both were members of the sailing team at St. Mary's College of Maryland and so it only figures that their four daughters would have some aptitude for the sport.

"It's a sport when you're eight years old, you get cast off on your own (in an optimist class dinghy) to sink or swim so to speak," Bill Healy said. "They all made it. They headed out ... and they all had each other, so that was a help."

Eldest daughter Caroline recently completed her sophomore season playing lacrosse at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., while the two youngest, East Lyme High School twin sophomores Sarah and Meredith, each have their own sports, as well.

They all sail with what amounts to a sailing family; grandfather Bill Healy moved the family from West Hartford to his summer home of Niantic, where he first taught himself to sail, and grandmother Nancy Healy has a high school sailing trophy named in her honor after years of involvement.

The girls serve as instructors at Niantic Bay Yacht Club, where they rode their bikes less than a mile from their home growing up.

It is Kristen Healy, however, a senior at East Lyme, second in the pecking order after Caroline, who has chosen sailing as "her sport." Kristen will pursue a sailing career beginning next year at Fordham University in New York City.

Fordham's sailing venue is City Island, overlooking Long Island Sound and Eastchester Bay, and the team competes in the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association.

Kristen plans to major in biology and pursue a pre-med track (grandfather Bill was a neurologist).

"Growing up, me and all my sisters took sailing lessons at the yacht club. I was the one that fell in love with it the most," Kristen Healy said in a telephone interview this week. "Some of my best friends go to the yacht club. I guess we're friends with everyone. We go swimming, go sailing. I just grew up there since I was really little. Me and all my cousins would go out sailing. I learned from that.

"I have kind of been in contact with a lot of coaches this spring and last fall. It was kind of based on where I got in and what I wanted to do."

Also at Fordham, Kristen will most likely run into her dad once in a while at regattas. Bill Healy, a former All-American at St. Mary's as was his brother Tim, is the associate head coach of the sailing team at Yale, which sends smaller contingents to several regattas each weekend throughout the spring.

"I'm sure we'll see each other somewhere," Bill Healy said. "... My brother and I got to sail together in college and my coach was in my wedding. I made a lot of great friendships. You travel almost nine weekends in the fall and spring. It's a great social sport."

Bill, who has been coaching at Yale since 2003, was voted the 2017 Sail1Design Coach of the Year for being the best one design dinghy coach. Competitively, he has won nearly every major U.S. International 420 regatta and was a member of the U.S. Sailing 470 team in 1994. He has been national, North American and Mid-Winter champion in five different sailing classes.

Kristen, who has her own 420 at Niantic Bay, will sail in that class collegiately. She has mainly served as crew in the two-person boat, first crewing for her sister Caroline and then alongside fellow senior Eli Gleason from Dover, Mass., who summers down the shoreline from Niantic in Madison.

Gleason and Healy finished ninth in 420s at the U.S. Junior Sailing Championship in Toms River, N.J., won the Secor Volvo Fishers Island Sound Race and earned the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association's Rod Johnstone Trophy as the best junior sailing team, all in 2017.

Healy has competed in the New England Championship the last two years and has sailed in the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta. She is a former member of the MudRatz sailing program.

"There's some kids I know (on different college teams) from other big regattas," she said of sailing at Fordham. "I'm really excited about going in the fall."

Meanwhile, because there is no longer a sailing team at East Lyme High School, all four Healy sisters found some other way to represent the Vikings.

Kristen and Meredith were on the East Lyme girls' lacrosse roster for last year's Class M state championship, while Sarah was a member of the girls' golf team. In the fall, Sarah scored the game-winning goal in overtime in the Eastern Connecticut Conference field hockey tournament championship game, assisted by Kristen, who earned second team Class M all-state honors. Meredith played in the Class L state championship game for the East Lyme girls' soccer team and earned first team all-state honors.

"I definitely like playing other sports besides sailing. It's something different. Why not try something new?" Kristen said. "I met all my best friends through those two sports (field hockey and lacrosse).

"Then they say, 'Where are you going?' I say, 'I have sailing.'"

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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