For now, at least, Vandemoer has found a new career, working for Water Solutions, a small firm that specializes in building drinking water systems, including digging wells on rural land and helping urban factories with their own water sources. Glenn Reynolds, the company’s founder, whose son had sailed in a program run by Vandemoer’s wife, Molly, said Vandemoer had been a quick study with the right academic background and displayed a coach’s faculty for marshaling a team’s resources.
“My feeling was here’s the story we all heard in the news, but that’s one side of it,” Reynolds said when asked why he decided to hire Vandemoer. “When you learn that John never cashed the check, that Stanford wrote a thank-you letter to the donor and that John’s job required him to fund-raise, I’m sitting there thinking this isn’t as black and white as the prosecution is laying it out.”
He added, “John’s sincerity comes out and shakes your hand.”
Vandemoer said therapy had helped him cope with the shame and anger he felt and also showed him how he could be a better husband and a better father to his children, Nicholas, 5, and Nora, 3. Writing the book, he said, was particularly therapeutic.
Vandemoer said he appreciated being able to leave work at the office and cherished weekends at home with the family and having a social life — time that he used to spend flying around the country to regattas. Still, he has managed to get out on the water, working with young sailors at the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation, where Molly serves as director. Sailing, he said, still matters immensely to him.
In July, he traveled to Norfolk, Va., with a group of children ages 10 to 13.
Rolling up to the boat park triggered so many emotions — how would other coaches, his former colleagues, feel about seeing him? What would he tell them? The anxiety dissipated after a few handshakes, and by the next day, he felt a sense of ease, eyeing only the current and how the wind was hitting the sails.
These weren’t college sailors, but he wasn’t that coach anymore, either.
“I focus on the things I think matter now,” Vandemoer said. “It wasn’t about winning, it wasn’t about being the perfect athlete. It was about how to learn, how to fail and how to come back again. I feel like I can teach that a lot.”