It’s perhaps no surprise that Pieter and Yvette Eenkema van Dijk, parents of son Maarten, recently decided to make Northeastern history, with a standout gift to the Sailing Club. The couple, born in the Netherlands, joke that all Dutch children swim, skate, and sail—after all, they’re surrounded by water. And sailing is their son’s grand passion.
Maarten, E’14, a civil engineering major, and the club’s captain, has been on the water since he was 8. “He’d take his lunchbox and life jacket, and off he’d go,” his mother remembers. “Sailing taught him responsibility and organization.”
But even Maarten was startled when, in December, his parents told him they would pledge $750,000 to the club—enough to generate a professional coach’s salary, now and for years to come.
Having hosted traveling team members at their home in Darien, Conn., Pieter says, “We saw how great these kids were—so smart, polite, funny, and dedicated. Watching them from the docks, we could see how very skilled they were. But they were up against professionally coached teams, and that was a real drawback.
“We wanted to have a lasting effect—to help not only these outstanding sailors, but future generations.”
Adds Yvette: “Sailing requires discipline and strategy—reading the course, the elements, and your competitors.” It’s a sport, she feels, in which Northeastern should excel, especially given its proximity to the Charles River and its superb facilities, which are leased from MIT.
Two years ago, Maarten and fellow sailors began strategizing ways to identify funding sources. Meanwhile, the student-run club was getting noticed by varsity-level teams backed by schools like MIT, Boston University, and Yale. To fill a need for higher-level instruction, coach-adviser Matthew Largess began pulling professional coaches in at practices. Among them was veteran Olympics coach Jonathan Farrar, whom the students hired in January.
Buoyed by a wave of support, the club’s 40 members are delighted that university fundraisers will raise another $100,000 from alumni, parents, and friends. The goal: to replace and expand the club’s aging fleet, and hoist Northeastern’s name aloft on a new set of sails.