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RACE Coastal Engineering Celebrates 20th Anniversary

It all started out with playing on beaches! 

To fully understand the RACE history, it is important to understand how the company came to be in the first place.

John Roberge, who founded the small niche consulting firm that would become RACE in 1999, grew up spending his summers on the Leete’s Island section of Guilford, CT.  John, "JR" to his friends and comrades, would tell you that he “grew up on the water.” His summer days were spent clamming, fishing, diving, waterskiing, and generally being a Long Island Sound water-rat. These early experiences inspired him to pursue his Masters in Coastal & Oceanographic Engineering from the storied program at the University of Florida where he was mentored by such coastal engineering gurus as Dr. Robert Dean, Dr. Per Bruun, and Dr. Emmanuel Partheniades. Working alongside these professors, JR was on the leading edge of the science of nearshore sediment transport and beach mechanics. 

Following graduation, JR took his degree and passion for the water to work at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS. While with the Corps, JR used his academic knowledge of nearshore sediment transport and beach and dune systems, coupled with site visits and assessment of virtually every major tidal inlet and harbor entrance in the U.S., to develop and test new dredging and channel maintenance means and methods.

While JR was finishing his studies at the University of Florida, a young Devin Santa was nurturing a similar love of the marine world. Devin grew up on the water spending his summers on Stratford beaches and sailing the waters of Long Island Sound.  Devin obtained his Civil Engineering Degree concentrating on Structural Engineering but remained constantly fixated on the waterfront. “I have not had a job that has not been reliant on salt water since I was 18,” commented Devin. “Prior to settling into the coastal engineering field, my jobs have included being a sailmaker, naval architect, and yacht captain.” Experience in these fields, along with those from a lifetime of recreational boating and living on the water, give Devin inherent insight to operation of waterfront facilities and a respect for the power of the sea. Devin rounded out his experiential knowledge of the coastal world with academic knowledge by obtaining his Master’s Degree in Coastal Engineering.

JR and Devin’s paths first crossed in the mid-90s when they worked for the same firm. In 1999, JR moved on to form his own company with a sole focus on coastal engineering. In 2000, Devin and his wife Beth also hung their own shingle with Santa Marine Services providing yacht management services and collaborating extensively with JR on his projects. This loose affiliation of two companies and three people thrived. They added another company to the mix in 2002 when they formed Sound Surveys, LLC to perform hydrographic surveys. As business grew, and the prospect of working out of their respective homes in Guilford and Stratford was no longer viable, they together rented office space for these growing companies. In 2004, Devin and JR officially became partners in the engineering business and the company Roberge Associates Coastal Engineers (RACE) was born. 

While the spark that ignited RACE started by playing on the beaches it has now grown to so much more …

As the company grew, so did the size, sophistication, and expertise of the team. Over the years the work performed by RACE went from mainly residential and yacht club projects to include commercial, industrial, and municipal clients. We are honored to have been nationally recognized by our peers for engineering excellence on several projects, including our work in Bridgeport at Steelpointe Harbor’s bulkhead, New Haven’s Nathan Hale Pier and Staten Island’s shoreline protection.

Today we are a 15-person firm which includes coastal engineers, structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, licensed captains, and certified hydrographers. While every project is approached with disciplined engineering fundamentals, our team skills are constantly expanding with advancements in technology and engineering tools, including coastal modeling; 3-dimensional load analysis software; composite structural materials, biodegradable fibers, and other advancements in construction methods. The RACE staff’s expertise is often requested for presentations on design and construction of coastal infrastructure, flood and erosion control structures, permitting, coastal engineering modeling and living shorelines.

“The RACE team we have is amazing,” said Devin. “The dedication and skill that they bring to their work is impressive.  I am honored to be part of such a talented team. Today our management team includes our VP of Coastal Engineering, Azure Dee Sleicher, and Project Managers Matt Rakowski, Steve Sternberg, Chris Eggers, and Jill Pietropaolo. This team are all licensed Professional Engineers with strong academic backgrounds in the field of coastal engineering combined with decades of practical experience on and around the water.”

While academic and practical experience are critical in the rigorous field of engineering, it takes something more to be part of the RACE Team. “Everyone on the RACE team shares a common passion for working on the water.” Devin continues, “You are just as likely to find our Team on the water recreationally weeknights and weekends as you are professionally during the work week. It is this common passion for where we work that has allowed us to excel these past 20 years and this same passion that will propel us in the future.”

Many at RACE are active in industry and marine recreational associations. Working with colleagues, whether it be promoting commerce or waterfront access, gives us the opportunity to participate in the future of our waterways. 

While we have grown and some things have changed, more things tend to remain the same. The shared passion that JR and Devin have for being on the water has been incorporated into the RACE mission statement – To enhance the quality of life, experience, property and infrastructure by providing responsive solutions where water meets land.

“We are clearly doing more than ‘playing on beaches’ these days but this history is infused in the company that we have become.  We take tremendous pride in providing solutions for our clients in the area that we all love whether it is a beach, developed shorefront, marina, or commercial facility,” says Devin.  “Our dedicated Team is ready to launch RACE into the next 20 years of working with communities to protect, utilize and enjoy our waterfronts.”

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JR and Devin 

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