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Sailing focuses on the positives, but laments lack of access to boats

October 23, 2020

Aiming to create a welcoming atmosphere for first years and further strengthen their team’s camaraderie, Bowdoin sailors are staying positive through virtual meetings and workouts despite challenges the broader athletic community faces from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

A major problem for the sailing team this fall has been the inability of all team members to access boats.

“In field sports, you can practice running, and you have your lacrosse stick at home, or you can do fixed drills or if you live with people you can practice with them,” co-captain Julia Adams ’21 said in a phone interview with the Orient. “But sailing needs access to boats, which is super difficult, especially because Bowdoin won’t let [students living off campus] onto [the] Coastal Studies [Center], even if you’re in Brunswick.”

When athletics became remote, Bowdoin sailors had a harder time simulating and practicing boat maneuver skills that they would ideally learn in person. However, they are trying to stay positive and are finding alternative ways to keep honing their skills.

“There’s endless footage of us sailing, and we’ve been able to work through that…We’ll watch a video of one of us sailing or another team sailing, critique it and walk through what’s not good,” Adams said. “However, it just doesn’t mimic what it’s like being in the boat.”

Not only do they lack access to their equipment, but they also miss out on the mentor-mentee dynamic between the upperclassmen and first years. The upperclassmen are a vital asset in helping the first years with in-person boat skills, and Head Coach Frank Pizzo is worried about the loss of institutional memory for the future team.

“The team has learned so much from each other and particularly our underclassmen learn a lot about our sport, our expectations and the local knowledge, which is important with sailing, from the upperclassmen,” Pizzo said in a phone interview with the Orient. “You can do some of that via the computer, but we’re going to have basically half our team next year that has very little institutional knowledge, and that takes years to create.”

The captains and the coach want to make their first-year teammates feel included and thus have turned to Zoom as a platform not only to engage in “speed dating” bonding activities and team meetings but also to do synchronous workouts.

“I caught up with all of them personally, and I think that this speed dating stuff has allowed them to meet people on the team in a one-on-one setting,” Adams said. “Beyond that, we also have team meetings every week and do breakout rooms with the first years.”

Sailors living off-campus participate in bodyweight workouts twice a week, which are run remotely by Adams and fellow captain Alden Grimes ’21. On campus, the first years sail and work out in the gym. These sessions allow the team members to stay connected and motivate one another for the next season.

“We have been spending a lot of time on the basics, focusing on sailing the boats well,” Pizzo said. “We’ve been pushing our new people to learn how to sail and race at the same time. I think, in some ways, it’s good because we have two coaches, and we can dedicate a lot of energy into our first years specifically right now.”

In order to make it through this difficult time, the team reminds themselves of their goals for the future.

“This fall, through a lot of our workouts, we are like, ‘okay, we’re going to stay fit, we’re going to stay ready and we’re going to keep in this together knowing that we’re going to be back together in the spring and hopefully competing,’” Grimes said in a phone interview with the Orient. “We are keeping our heads down and focusing on making sure that we’re ready.”

In addition to integrating their first years and strengthening their culture, the team is taking this time to look at race in their sport.

“I think a big team goal of ours is having dialogues and taking action about race and inclusion,” Adams said. “It’s really important to our core values, and I think it’s been a central focus of our team since I’ve been a part of it.”

Pizzo is looking forward to the time when the entire team can finally be reunited so that practices, as well as discussions on race, can continue in full form again.

“We are all just looking forward to getting everybody back,” Pizzo said. “We are making the most of whatever is being thrown our way because that’s all we can deal with right now.”


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