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MIT sailing team member becomes first African American to earn All American in sailing

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Madhulika Jain (left) and Alan Sun practice in their Flying Junior out on Boston Harbor.
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Caption: Madhulika Jain (left) and Alan Sun practice in their Flying Junior out on Boston Harbor.
Credits: Photo / Laura Wulf
Alan Sun
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Caption: Alan Sun
Madhulika Jain
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Caption: Madhulika Jain

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Madhulika Jain (left) and Alan Sun practice in their Flying Junior out on Boston Harbor.
Madhulika Jain (left) and Alan Sun practice in their Flying Junior out on Boston Harbor.
Photo / Laura Wulf
Alan Sun
Alan Sun
Madhulika Jain
Madhulika Jain

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- A member of the MIT coed sailing team is the first African-American man to be named All American in college sailing. Alan Sun, of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, also received the unanimous vote of the committee for the national sportsman-of-the-year award.

He and his crew, Madhulika Jain of New Delhi, India, and teammates Sean Fabre of Mill Valley, Calif. and Jessica Lackey of Houston, Texas received All American status Wednesday night following the national collegiate sailing championships in Kings Point, NY. Ms. Jain is the first Indian woman to be named All American.

All four earned bachelor's degrees from MIT during last Friday's Commencement ceremony.

At the June 5-7 regatta, the coed team, including sophomore Erin Shea of Dublin, Ohio, placed 12th in the coed dinghy competition. Eighteen teams competed for the national trophy; St. Mary's College was the winner. Ms. Lackey is a member of the MIT women's sailing team, which did not compete in the national championships.

While MIT holds more national titles in sailing than any other school in the nation, the Institute hasn't won the big trophy since 1957 when pre-college sailing caught on in the United States and many skilled young sailing competitors begain opting for college education at NCAA Division I schools. Before that, MIT was on an even keel with other colleges that took their novice freshmen sailing teams and brought them "up to national level in four years," said head coach Fran Charles, who has coached the sailing squad for the past eight and a half years.

The last time an MIT sailing team made it to the national championships was 1984. These are the first MIT sailing team members to win All American status since 1979.


The coed team won 14 trophy regattas this year and received numerous other decorations. They took second in the Harry Anderson and the Schell Trophy regattas and fourth in the Atlantic Coast Championships, all of which throw together the top teams in the nation.

The team is also the first MIT winner of the Thompson Trophy, taken by Mr. Sun, who just earned the SB in management, and Ms. Jain, who earned degrees in both biology and computer science. The two (skipper and crew) received the MIT team's Most Valuable Player award three times, and were nominated for the national award for sportsmanship in sailing by Harvard, Yale and several other competitors.

Mr. Sun was awarded the Senior Trophy of the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association, and he received MIT's Admiral Edward L. Cochrane Award for "humility, leadership and inspiration in intercollegiate athletics."


Mr. Sun and Ms. Jain, who have sailed together three years, are an interesting multicultural mix of sailing experience. Mr. Sun, the skipper, grew up in the Virgin Islands (his parents are from Trinidad; his grandfather is from Hong Kong), where he learned to sail in the Caribbean at age eight and started racing at age nine. Before that he competed in swimming meets starting at the age of six.

During high school, he spent four years racing as the youngest crew member on a five-man team that made an unsuccessful Olympic bid. At the same time, he played varsity soccer and did well in that, too.

When he got to MIT, he wanted to play soccer and sail, but conflicting game/race schedules made that impossible. He realized within the first week on campus that he'd have to make some decisions about how to spend his time.

"I chose sailing because it's nondivisional. So when you're racing against the best, you're racing against the best in the country," said Mr. Sun, who plans to work for a Sapient Corp. on Memorial Drive after graduation. "Every school I applied to had a sailing team."

Ms. Jain, on the other hand, learned sailing in a Physical Education course her freshman year. She had rowed in rowboats in India and punted in Oxford, England when visiting relatives, but never sailed.

Coach Kyle Welch, who taught Ms. Jain that first year, was keeping his eye out for a partner for Mr. Sun.

"Kyle invited me to join the team and I said, 'Sure. No one's ever asked me to join a team before,'" said the 5'1", 108-pound student, who plans to continue sailing during her graduate studies in biology at the University of California at San Francisco. "I think he asked me because of my weight -- both people combined need to weigh 260 to 270 pounds -- and the fact that I wasn't scared. Spring sailing is cold and really windy and scares away a lot of people." Mr. Sun is 5'8" tall and weighs 160 lbs.

It was the spring sailing that scared away Mr. Sun's crew his freshman year, clearing the way for Ms. Jain to join him. "It was a long learning process to get [Ms. Jain] to the point where she is. Now she's one of the best crews in the nation," said Mr. Sun.

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