Jill Francis of Warren races through URI

KINGSTON, R.I. — January 21, 1999 — URI student Jill Francis sure knows her halyards from her hulls and her jibs from her jives. As captain of the URI sailing team for the past two and a half years, the 21-year-old marine affairs major set the course for the team’s impressive third-place finish in the keelboat Student Yachting World Cup, off the coast of La Trinite Sur Mer, France this past fall. That was after the team took top prize in the national competition. It’s not surprising, then, that the Francis name will become part of the team’s illustrious history. It will be engraved on a plaque as this year’s recipient of the Bill Ellis Memorial, given in recognition of an outstanding woman sailor. The coveted plaque hangs at the URI Sailing Center in South Kingstown. Not only does Francis know something about sailing, she knows a great deal about leadership. She was voted captain of the team twice by her three dozen or so teammates. Francis also knows something about raising money. Sailing is truly a team sport. Members have to pay dues to help pay the coach. If the team wants to compete in international competition, they have to raise the money themselves. The trip to France cost nearly $31,000. With a $6,000 grant from URI’s Student Senate, Francis and her teammates created a successful letter-writing campaign asking for contributions. Members wrote friends, parents, relatives, local businesses, and yacht clubs. Francis has gained other land-based skills. As captain, she represented URI in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association and scheduled all races. Not an easy task since the sailing team races September through November, and March through May—every weekend, sometimes in multiple regattas. She also kept track of the team’s boats and their maintenance, sometimes ran practices, represented the sailing team on the URI Club Sports Council and negotiated its annual budget. She helped hire the coach and collected dues to pay him. She set up the contract. The team races in 15-foot Flying Juniors. To compete in the keelboat competition both nationally and internationally, Francis asked John Bushee, a family friend and fellow member of the Bristol Yacht Club, to loan the team his 35-foot boat Vicious, a Jeanneau one-design. The team practiced four-days a week in September until they left in October. Francis got her sea legs early, sailing with her parents, John and Lynne Francis of Warren, since she was a small tot. She began formal lessons when she was 8 and raced through high school, applying only to colleges that had sailing teams. When she came to URI as a freshman, she didn’t expect to stay. Her sights were set on other schools. But then she fell in love with both the sailing team and her marine affairs focus. “The busier I am, the more I can accomplish,” says the now old salt. “Racing is intense and stressful. It’s a big mental game. “The trip to France was the best thing that has happened to me. It was so rewarding. We lived in a villa. Eighteen teams, representing 15 different countries dined together.” The URI senior retired as captain this fall but will continue to be a valuable member of the sailing crew. She’s hoping to go on to graduate school and focus on environmental planning. No doubt, she’ll be successful. She’s on the right tack!