Club sailing continues to dominate against top national varsity programs

Media Credit: File Photo by Sydney Walsh

Club sailing has cracked the list of the top 20 sailing teams in the nation after placing in the top half of its in-conference competition in four of its six fleet races last month.

Updated: Oct. 19, 2022 at 7:26 p.m.

GW Sailing has continued to hang with top-level national competition in its second year as a club team after the University cut the program as a varsity sport earlier during the pandemic.

Club sailing has cracked the list of the top 20 sailing teams in the nation after placing in the top half of its in-conference competition in four of its six fleet races last month. The squad is eying its second straight bid at the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s National Championships in the spring, currently ranked as the 19th-best sailing program in the United States by World Sailing, the governing body for the sport.

The team has competed in five showcases, regional and cross-regional races this month, where the team has placed above 39 percent of its competition on average. As the club’s supply of former varsity athletes diminishes each year without University oversight, members are working to maintain their continued national success through recruitment efforts of their own.

Club sailing President Ruby Gordon, who will graduate this spring, said the team has enlisted nine freshmen to the team as part of its heightened efforts to recruit freshmen and prospective high school talent.

“The sophomores and freshmen are all brought onto the team by us,” Gordon said. “We have two recruiting chairs, and they’re amazing. It’s just Owen and Abbie Chips, and they work together to reach out to high school students, answer high school students, also other existing members of the GW community we just want to walk on.”

Last season, sailing qualified for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s National Championships after placing fifth out of 18 at the American Trophy Regatta – the regional tournament of the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association, a division within the ICSA. GW also held the highest ICSA ranking of any club in the country, ranking 12th among the nation’s college athletic teams.

The team will continue competing every weekend from September until late October and has focused on bolstering their team’s chemistry and mental endurance to prepare for championship competition. Gordon said the team has made strong showings in events with one-person vessels, like a third-place ranking in the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association Top 9/Susan Rogers ’75 Memorial Regatta.

Gordon said the team lacks the budget to pay a coach, but alumni have volunteered to coach the team when it races at locations near their hometowns, and they monitor a team spreadsheet with all their practices and competitions.

“They don’t have the financial resources to buy this fleet of boats or whatever, but they can give their time. And it’s not just their time, it’s their wisdom,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the team aims to record a top-five ranking in the MAISA championships this spring and increase their number of walk-on sailors during the spring semester. She said she hopes the team can grow and engage in more community service to “not just be the kids on boats.”

Senior captain Owen Timms said as a captain and one of the leading figures of the club, he has worked to rally the club team’s drive to take on fully funded varsity programs with multiple coaches. He said the team is focusing on its speed and boat-handling skills for fleet races, where only two sailors are allowed in each boat.

“Short-term goal, we want to stay as competitive as we can,” Timms said. “I think for this fall, a great goal would be our conference championships. We won our conference championships last fall. We had a huge senior class that was quite deep, and I think a great goal for us too would be to – I’m not going to say a specific result because I don’t really believe in specific number of goals – but I think to do as well as past squads.”

Timms said the team’s long-term goal should be to set up a sustainable system that can continue to reel in students and carry the team into the future after he graduates.

“We are constantly tackling and hurdling obstacles to get where we need to go, it’s a very ‘Do it yourself’ kind of deal, especially in the leadership positions, in my opinion,” Timms said. “Like Ruby, Emma and I are constantly adapting. I think that’s the biggest thing personally – getting used to working on this every day and knowing that it’s going to be constantly changing and adapting those changes with personnel, teammates, scheduling conflicts, stuff like that.”

Senior captain Emma Aubuchon said the captains have concentrated on creating a solid foundation for the freshman with constant practices to familiarize them with the team to ensure a quicker speed and higher strength to manage the boats. She said her goal for the year is to make everyone on the team feel included and able to pursue progress.

She said younger talent has been able to sail and adjust to collegiate competition more this fall than last spring, when the then-seniors on the team accounted for a majority of the team’s roster.

“And then a goal for the year is making sure that everyone on the team feels included and that everyone pursues the path of progression that they want,” Aubuchon said. “Not everyone wants to be the top sailor on the team, or the top person or can even commit that much time to it. But I think like having everyone feel like included, welcome and feeling like they’re helping the team is really important.”

This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet misspelled Chips’ first name in an earlier version of the post. The correct spelling is now reflected. We regret this error.

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