Skipper Erin Mullins ’16 opened the spring sailing season with a dominant display at the St. Mary’s Women’s Regatta. Mullins, along with her crew mates Dana Bloch ’17 and Emily Salitan ’16 won division A by 43 points. 

These points are awarded based on place—a first-place finish is worth one point while a fifth place finish is worth five. This means the team placed around three positions better than their closest competition. The effort won the three New England Intercollegiate Sailing (NEISA) Sailors of the Week. Mullins and Salitan followed up that performance a week later, helping Bowdoin clinch third place among nationally ranked competition.

Mullins, a Rhode Island native, has skippered most of her life, but said that her Bowdoin decision was somewhat independent of her desire to sail.

“Bowdoin is one of the prettiest places to sail,” she said. “But I picked the school for the school; sailing was a nice bonus.”

Mullins embodies the collaborative personality of the Bowdoin sailing team. Some skippers prefer to dictate orders, but Mullins treats races like a conversation. As Bloch put it, “some skippers really don’t want to hear from you.”

“It’s really nice of her to say ‘what do you think about this?’”  said sophomore crew Mimi Paz. “I think she likes asking questions and likes working together like that. Most of the time we definitely agree on what to do. If we don’t, she totally knows what to do.”

Mullins was quick to defer praise to her crew. Of Bloch, she acknowledged, “Dana pretty much does everything for me out there.”

Mullins cracked the top of the team’s lineup during her first spring on the team, racing in the B division. She moved to the A division her sophomore fall, following the expected trajectory of a skilled. Mullins made a leap her junior fall, however—an improvement Coach Frank Pizzo credits to her time spent in the boat with Bloch.

“She’s been able to get to a really high level,” he said. “She started sailing with Dana in the middle of the fall; I think Dana’s really helped her make that leap.”

Pizzo spends a lot of time mixing and matching skippers and crews. He said he learned that Mullins excels when she stays calm in the boat, so she’s seen success when working with crews with similar approaches.

“Both of those girls sail best when they’re having fun and keeping it light, personality-wise,” Pizzo said. “It’s very hard to describe the anxiety a skipper feels when they’re holding the tiller.”
Similarly, Mullins has had success with Salitan and Paz.

“She really thrives in a positive environment,” Paz said. “She lets the crew pay attention to the bigger picture. I think that’s why she likes suggestions.”

Paz also called crewing “a lot of turning around” because of how focused skippers are at looking forward. Mullins called Bloch her “eyes and ears” in the boat.

Mullins succeeds not only because of the chemistry she’s found with her crew, but also because of her base technical ability. She has improved her place in a number of races because of her handling and speed while racing.

“She’s really smooth in all of her boat handling maneuvers,” Bloch said. “If the breeze is really light and you need a couple of tacks to get up to speed, it’s usually really smooth. Some people can’t use their boat-handling to their advantage because it’s        really messy.”

“It’s definitely a lot about experience,” Salitan said. “But she also doesn’t go for the risky, complicated maneuvers. Of the set of skills a sailor has, she knows what her strengths are and sticks to them. It’s her own personal diligence.”

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