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Sailing team approaches fall season with fresh sense of confidence

September 12, 2019

Coming off the best season in program history last spring, the sailing team rode its momentum into the opening weekend of its fall season last week, sailing in five regattas. One team placed third in the Harmon Trophy at Maine Maritime Academy, earning qualifying spots for the Match Race Championships and the Penobscot Bay Open.

Last spring, the Polar Bears qualified for all three Intercollegiate Sailing Association national championships for the first time in program history. Ultimately, they placed ninth in the Team Race National Championship, 14th at the Gil Coed Nationals and 18th in the Women’s ICSA Finals. The spring added another chapter to the history of the program’s recent successes.

“Bowdoin Sailing was not good for a long time, until maybe 10 years ago,” captain Christian Filter ’20 said. “Even then, we hadn’t been able to break through that barrier of going to team race nationals, or going to all three in one year. It’s really hard to make it to nationals, and to finally do that is really validating.”

On top of the strong team performance, Matt Kaplan ’19 and Louisa Lindgren ’19 were both named ICSA All-Americans, and Head Coach Frank Pizzo ’06 was named the NEISA Coach of the Year.

Pizzo said that the team’s collective and individual success on the national stage have helped put Bowdoin sailing on the map.

“When you sail at all the Nationals and you’re in the rankings, you just get more national sailing media, which is not extensive, but even in the world of sailing more people at least know how to pronounce the school and then will check you out,” Pizzo said.

That does not mean that the team can get too confident this season, captain Emily Gonzalez ’20 stressed.

“We’re just trying to return to our fundamentals and really polish up and make sure that we don’t become complacent or believe that it’s going to be given to us the next time we go to these qualifiers,” Gonzalez said. “We still have to work very hard to achieve the same level we did as last year.”

The team’s continued effort paid off at the Harmon Trophy at Maine Maritime Academy last weekend. The Polar Bears battled the effects of a weakened Hurricane Dorian as well as the other competition to place third overall, qualifying for the Match Race New England Championship in October.

Marie Bergsund ’20, Chris Lukens ’23, Matt Safford ’20, and John Seider ’22 sailed for Bowdoin. “The team that went  [to the regatta] sailed in some really trying conditions,” Filter said. “It was super windy and there were a ton of boat breakdowns, which were huge distractions for other teams. But they were able to stick it out and qualify for [the] next round.”

This weekend, the team will hope for better conditions in order to capitalize on a home-water advantage as they host the Barnett Trophy on Saturday at 10 a.m at the Leighton Sailing Center.

“I think it’s always fun and exciting to share our venue with other teams because we don’t host a lot,” Gonzalez said. “There is a home-field advantage because we know the conditions and what the water movements are like, and [we] can use that to our advantage, which is always [an] extra perk of sailing at our own place.”

Even though the Polar Bears are only at the beginning of their fall season, they already have their eyes set on the spring, which will determine whether or not they can repeat last year’s success.

“I wouldn’t say … the fall is a total development season, but we can spend a lot of time focusing on … getting better,” Pizzo said. “And in the spring, we … spend a lot of time focusing on peaking at our championships.”

In addition to the Barnett Trophy, the sailing team will be competing at the Hatch Brown Trophy at MIT and the Regis Trophy at Boston University, which will all take place on Saturday at 10 a.m.


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