Skippers not washed up yet!
It's 2:45 p.m. and the Bowdoin College Sailing Team is huddled in their winter clothes, waiting by the Polar Bear statue for the van to drive them to their sailing venue at Bethel Point in Cundy's Harbor.
The coming weekend is extremely important for the team-it is the final chance for both the coed and women's team to qualify for the Atlantic Coast Championship. The sailors plan on practicing hard throughout the week in preparation.
The Women's team, led by senior skippers Laura Windecker and Allison Binkowski, qualified for the championship last year and certainly hope repeat the feat by sailing fast this weekend with their crews Caitlin Moore '06 and Jackie Haskell '05 respectively.
This week's Senior Sailing Spotlight will focus on the sailing careers and aspirations of Bowdoin's top women skippers.
Interview with Laura Windecker '03
Hi Laura! From your outstanding performances in top regattas, one would imagine that you have had a lot of sailing experience. When did you initially begin your sailing career?
My father taught my sister and me how to sail in a small wooden Turnabout on a lake in Maine at our family's summerhouse when I was quite young. When I was 12, I went to summer camp and when I came home, all I talked about was sailing. The following summer, my mother enrolled me in sailing lessons at a local club in New Jersey, by the time I was 15, I bought my own used Laser with help from my parents, and I haven't stopped sailing since.
Can you explain a bit more about your experiences sailing Lasers and how they impacted your sailing at Bowdoin?
Lasers, 14 foot single-handed racing boats, are the most commonly single-handed [meaning a boat designed for one person] racing boats in the country. I raced a Laser Radial, a Laser with a bit smaller sail, used mostly by women and junior sailors throughout high school. I practiced mostly on Barnegat Bay, New Jersey and often I would be the only girl practicing on a given day. I was able to travel to regattas in Florida, New York and Canada with the Jersey Shore Youth Team and earned valuable racing experience. As a senior, I sometimes wonder how I sailed by myself for so many years because working together as a team with someone often allows you to sail faster and it's usually more fun!
So what is your job as a skipper in a Bowdoin Lark, a double-handed boat?
Basically, my job as skipper is to control the tiller [what steers the boat] and the mainsail while my crew controls the jib [the smaller front sail]. However, during a race, we both need to focus on how fast the boat is moving and where our boat is on the racecourse.
Tell me about NEISA, the college sailing league.
NEISA [New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association] is sailing's version of the NCAA. Any school, regardless of size in New England sails in this league. On any given weekend, our team will sail in regattas against schools such as Tufts, Harvard, Yale or Dartmouth. At most regattas, each school sends four people, 2 for A division and 2 for B division. Traditionally, NEISA is the most competitive league of the ICSA [Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association] in the country.
Thinking back on your entire sailing career, what is your most memorable experience?
I think it's impossible to have a single memorable experience. Getting "Top Women Skipper" at Laser Radial Nationals when I was 17 was a great experience and all those days on Barnegat Bay were great too. Meeting people from all over the country has been wonderful and of course, sailing here at Bowdoin has been fantastic. Our team is full of great people and we get to sail at one of the most beautiful sailing sites in the country almost every weekday!
Allie Binkowski '03
Hi Allie! Tell me about your initial sailing experiences.
I grew up on Lake Mendota in Wisconsin and spent most of my childhood hours in or on the water. My dad first taught me how to sail when I was really young but I didn't start racing until high school when my neighbor, one of the best Midwest sailors, took me under his wing and taught me how to race. I ended up sailing with him for seven summers and learning a lot in the process.
How do you think your sailing career has impacted your experience at Bowdoin and outlook on life?
Sailing has given me the opportunity to see a lot of the East Coast and get to know people from other schools. At Bowdoin, sailing has really given me a sense of belonging because the Sailing Team is extremely close. Being able to get out on the ocean every day and sail around lobster pots and seals while the sun sets is a pretty nice bonus too!
Wow, it seems like sailing is a great experience, but a heavy time commitment. Describe a normal week of sailing and how weekend regattas work.
We practice Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. and race every weekend, a huge time commitment of over 40 hours a week. As a team, we participate in three to five regattas every weekend and are able to travel across New England. The farthest away we generally sail is the Navel Academy in Annapolis and the closest is Boston. The time is worth it to me because I enjoy sailing so much. The freedom of being out on the water and using nothing but the wind to go wherever you want is such an amazing feeling that it's hard to describe.
So how do you enjoy being on the Women's Team? Any notable experiences from the past few years?
My favorite moment was when we first read the rankings that said we were thirteenth in the nation and my second favorite moment was winning A division at a major intersectional regatta at Tufts last year. In addition, almost nothing could beat qualifying for ACCs last year-I guess you could say that I am a little competitive.
What are your goals for the remainder of your college sailing career and beyond?
This upcoming weekend we are racing at the Victorian Urn Trophy at Harvard. Our goal is to get top 6 so that we can qualify for ACCs. Looking at the rest of the season as a whole, the Women's Team goal is to be ranked top 10 in the nation. Sailing is unique in that everything is Division I, so top 10 would be an amazing accomplishment. In addition, sailing is one of those sports that can last for one's whole life, and I have no doubt that my passion for sailing and love of the water will continue after college.
Any thoughts for younger sailors thinking to join the team or learn how to sail?
The sailing team is very unique in that we are a Division I varsity sport yet do not require participants to have any experience upon joining. We are always looking for more sailors. So anyone athletic and committed and looking for a great team to join is welcome!
In other Bowdoin College sailing news, the Polar Bears sailed to victory this past weekend at UNH's Eastern Series VI. The Eastern Series team was led by Eddie Briganti '05 who sailed with Kendall Brown '06 and Emily Bruns '06 who sailed with Ellen Grenely '06, aided by Roberto Hernandez '06.
However, the other Bowdoin teams had a tough weekend, and struggled through the pouring rain. At Brown's Hoyt Trophy intersectional, the coed team, comprised of Tyler Dunphy '03 who sailed with Melanie Keene '03 and Ryan Cauley '03 who sailed with Amy Titcomb '04 did not sail as fast as possible, finding themselves completing a lot of protest spins and hacking it up at the starts.
However they will get back in their fast mode for this weekend's qualifier for the ACC Tournament at the Navel Academy that will be hosted at MIT.
Last week's other regattas included the Women's Stu Nelson Trophy at Connecticut College, where they placed 13th overall, and the Wellahan Trophy at USM.
The Wellahan sailors consisted of "The Belgian," Pieter Scheerlinck '05 who sailed with Sophie Wiss '06, and Frank Pizzo '06 who sailed with Sabrina Hall-Little '06 and Eddie Briganti '05.
While their final ranking was not stellar, these sailors fought through the dreary weather, battled with tough Mass Maritime sailors, and learned more about the 420-styled boats.