After a slow start to the season, the sailing team has found great success in its latest regattas. After placing sixth out of 18 teams in the first round of the Women’s Atlantic Coast tournament at Brown, the team qualified for and competed in the Women’s Atlantic Coast Championship (ACC) Finals at Kings Point this past weekend, placing ninth amongst 18 competitors.
The team also qualified for the Open ACC Finals this upcoming weekend. This is a significant milestone, as the team only qualified for the women’s championship last year.
Additionally, Christine Reimer ’24 qualified for Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ISCA) Women’s Singlehanded Nationals after finishing third at the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) Singlehanded Championship earlier this fall. In early November, Reimer will travel to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. to compete. This will be Reimer’s second time at Nationals, where she placed seventh overall last year.
The team also competed in the Savin Hill Invite at Boston College, the Captain Hurst Bowl at Dartmouth and the New England Match Race Championship at the Coast Guard Academy this weekend, placing fifth, tenth and fourth, respectively, amongst the top sailing teams in the country. These results mark the third consecutive week the team has consistently posted successful results.
The team attributes much of its recent results to its focus on basic sailing techniques in addition to being able to sail together more as the season progresses.
“We’ve all been trusting in the learning process. We’ve all been process focused and focused on things that we control and taking elements of the sport in piecemeal,” captain Lizzy Kaplan ’23 said. “When you’re just focusing on one thing at a time, that comes with a slow start. But in the past couple of weeks, all of those elements have come together for us because of the initial work on just focusing on one thing, so that’s been really cool to see.”
Head Coach Frank Pizzo ’06 believes the team’s increasing level of experience, in large part due to the guidance of more junior and senior sailors on the team, has allowed them to hold more constructive practices.
“I think this group is just a bit more experienced than they were last year. Last year’s group, because of Covid-19, was talented but less experienced,” Pizzo said. “This group has a lot more experience. They know what they need to be working on, they know how to practice and what to practice.”
This season, the team has also been able to rekindle the social aspect of the sport. As the season approaches its end, the captains are looking forward to focusing on team bonding during the offseason.
“In the fall, you sail one Bowdoin boat against 17 boats from other schools, but in the spring, it would be three Bowdoin boats against three boats from another team. So, that requires more team communication and coordination, which requires much more trust,” Slayton said. “My hope and goal for the team is to continue building that trust and building those avenues of communication.”
The team also credits its success to a shift in mentality and culture.
“I would also say that this group of people is really focused on hard work and holding each other accountable for that,” Kaplan said. “Whether that be pushing each other to get a notebook and write down the things you’ve been working on or challenging yourself in different drills, it’s just a group of people that are team-oriented and working hard to support one another.”
This culminates in a practice environment that Pizzo describes as competitive yet not cutthroat.
“We spent a lot of time in the fall working on skill sets, but we’re also working hard on building a good team culture and the right kind of practice environment,” Pizzo said. “We’re plenty talented, but if we don’t have the right culture, then people aren’t willing to push themselves as hard as they can to get better.”
As the fall season nears its end, Pizzo is looking forward to helping the team improve in the offseason and prepare for the spring.
“We’re going to be graduating some seniors this fall, which is going to be tough, but we have a really good group of first years,” Pizzo said. “We’re really looking forward to team racing [in the spring], getting our first years into it and seeing how far we can go.”
This weekend, the Polar Bears will compete in the Yale Women’s Regatta and the Open ACC at the Coast Guard Academy.