Armed with a fleet of 18 newly acquired boats, the Bowdoin sailing team is ready to take on a regatta-packed fall season. The fleet now consists of 420s—a type of sailboat to which Bowdoin athletes previously had limited access. Typically, college sailing teams race in two types of sailboats: Flying Juniors (FJs) and 420s.
Captain Louisa Lindgren ’19 is excited by the addition to Bowdoin’s fleet, especially since their limited access made it difficult to prepare for regattas.
“If you’re traveling to a school with a 420 and … you’ve never had experience in them, it’s kind of daunting and a little frustrating when you get to the event and don’t know how to sail the boat as well as you do an FJ,” said Lindgren. “But now we have time to practice and get better in those boats, so we feel like we can be a lot more prepared.”
Practices have long been underway for the fall season, which can run from September to November, depending on the team’s performance. Unlike most college sports, sailing also has a spring season, which begins in March and runs through the end of April.
The team spends a considerable amount of time training—both on land and on water—during the week, and practices on the water can last up to four hours. Additionally, athletes participate in between two and five regattas, each of which includes multiple races, every weekend.
“We’re pretty much gone from Friday night until Sunday night every weekend until November,” said Lindgren.
Sailing is not separated into size divisions or region, the Polar Bears compete against much larger schools up and down the coastline.
“Our biggest competition is definitely the Ivy League,” said Head Coach Frank Pizzo ’06.
Although the sailers’ time commitment is substantial, Pizzo believes it balances well with students’ other responsibilities. Moreover, the extensive amount of training and time spent traveling to regattas lends itself to a tight-knit team.
“I think everyone has a really strong connection to each other because of how much time we spend in the vans and hotels,” said captain Matt Kaplan ’19.
Kaplan added that the team is a great way for first years to get involved on campus and meet new people. While a majority of team members do have some previous sailing experience, the inclusive environment makes it easy for beginners to join.
“We try to be really welcoming of people of all different backgrounds and people that have both been involved in the sport or not involved in the sport before,” said Pizzo.
The inclusive team vibe is enhanced by the fact that, unlike most college sports, sailing is co-ed. According to Pizzo, this is fairly typical of sailing teams.
“It’s often pretty hard to have two guys that are small enough to sail the boats at the right weight, so a lot of the guys sail with girls,” he said.
Accordingly, regattas typically consist of co-ed or women-only races, and the team is set to compete in both types of races throughout the season. Kaplan is specifically looking forward to a regatta joint-hosted by MIT and Harvard in October called the Co-ed Showcase, where 36 teams from around the country will be competing. Additionally, Bowdoin will host the women’s championship later this fall.
In the coming weeks, the team will be working hard to train for these events, as well as for the spring season.
“It has been going well so far, but we know that we’re just laying the foundation for the rest of the year,” said Pizzo. “We have a bunch of work ahead of us to be where we want to be in the spring.”