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Women’s sailing reflects on ICSA championships

September 1, 2023

Courtesy of Ashley Dart
WOMEN ON THE WATER: The women’s sailing team finished in fifth place at the ICSA Women’s Fleet Race Nationals.

Last spring, the Bowdoin sailing team broke records at the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Women’s Fleet Race Nationals. The team finished in fifth place, exceeding Bowdoin sailing’s previous highest-ever finish—10th place in 2022. Lizzy Kaplan ’23 was named an Honorable Mention All-American skipper by the ICSA.

“That was the best finish in Bowdoin sailing history,” last year’s captain Hattie Slayton ’23 said. “There’s just one conference, there’s no NESCAC sailing. So we’re sailing against [teams] like Harvard and Yale and Georgetown and Penn, these schools that have a lot more students and a lot more money.… It’s pretty cool to be a small school and still be able to compete against them.”

Held in Kings Point, N.Y., the ICSA National Championships witnessed some major milestones for women’s sailing, not just for Bowdoin’s women’s sailing team, but within the sport as a whole.

The ICSA hosts four college-level national championships in the spring: Open (co-ed) Fleet Race, Women’s Fleet Race, Open Team Race, and Women’s Team Race.

“Sailing is a sexist sport,” Slayton said. “The reason why there’s a women’s division is because they weren’t allowed in the sport until quite recently.”

When Slayton started her Bowdoin career in 2019, there was no women’s division in team racing. This year, Stanford’s predominantly female team took historic wins in both the Open and Women’s Fleet Race—both championships Bowdoin qualified for.

“It’s pretty awesome that [Bowdoin sailing] women are competing on the national level and doing better than our co-ed, or open, team,” Slayton said. “We have a lot of first-year women skippers who are coming this year and I’m super excited to see what they do with these [upperclassmen] role models.”

Slayton is excited for Bowdoin sailing to have more female skippers because women have historically been pushed into being crews. The skipper controls one sail and the crew controls the other; however, the skipper is often referred to more than the crew, making this influx of women skippers a significant change.

Slayton looks forward to seeing more women succeed in the sport.

“The first women’s team racing nationals happened two years ago,” Slayton said. “That’s the other reason why it’s so exciting that now we have a lot more female skippers.… I’m so excited about women in the sport of sailing right now.”


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