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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth Sailing has a strong weekend of races ahead of nationals

The Dartmouth women and open sailing rosters have worked well together to finish top five in multiple tournaments and qualify for nationals.

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The Dartmouth women’s and open sailing teams have started their spring season on a strong note. Last weekend, the Big Green sent four teams to three regattas and secured winning records in each.

On April 13, the women raced at Harvard, placing fourth out of 10, while the open squad traveled to Connecticut and earned a third place finish at the Thompson Trophy regatta. The Big Green also raced two boats at the Central Four regatta hosted by the University of New Hampshire. The team’s first boat scored 30 points overall to take first place, while the second boat scored 31 points and placed third.

Head coach Justin Assad said he has been proud of both rosters for their preparation and performances thus far. Assad said both squads are focused on bolstering their chemistry and teamwork for the rest of the spring season.

“We’re really excited for both squads,” Assad said. “Our women’s team is really strong, and Maddie Hawkins [’24] is one of the strongest women in the country. In the open team, we have a really strong group of guys, and we’re excited to see them together as a unit.”

Sailors on both the open and women’s squads shared similar excitement. Sarah Young ’25, who races on the women’s squad, said their teams have gelled well this season.

“The team has been really good at working together,” Young said. “We have a strong line-up of women, and it’s the same on the open side.”

Sailor Alexandra Pierce ’25 also said both teams’ camaraderie is apparent both on and off the water. 

“I think it’s really special how much time we spend together in our personal lives,” Pierce said. “That speaks a lot to how much everyone loves the team and our communities.”

According to Hawkins, the accessibility of leadership opportunities on the team also helps build a strong culture. She said she has been able to hold leadership positions since she was a first-year sailor. 

“Our team gives an opportunity for anybody to take a leadership role,” Hawkins said. “The youngest people on the team are empowered to call out the older people on the team, so it’s less like a hierarchy and more like an equal family.”

According to Assad, spring sailing brings a host of new challenges to competition, including rainy and windy weather. Assad said he has been mindful of inclement weather during practices and believes it provides sailors with an important growth opportunity. 

“When we’re sailing in March and April, it can be pretty rugged, but that’s part of appreciating the seasons and training your body and mind to be tough,” Assad said. “I think having resilience and the attitude that we can compete and win in any conditions makes us that much stronger when we encounter adversity.”

Pierce said the unpredictability of spring weather also necessitates different race tactics and considerations. 

“In spring, conditions-wise, you’re always thinking about wind direction, pressure, et cetera,” Pierce said. “There’s a lot more variation outside in each race, which you have to account for.” 

In addition to new conditions, the spring season also features team-based racing — as opposed to the individual style in fall competitions. In team-based racing, two teams each put three boats in the water at the same time, for a total of six boats racing at once. The spring style requires more teamwork and communication, Assad explained.

“In team racing, you’re managing all the tactics of individual sailing while also trying to advance your team forward,” Assad said. “You’re trying to position yourself between the opponent and the next mark to advance your team into a winning combination, so it’s a lot of tactics and strategy.”

That increased need for strategy and collaboration make spring sailing unique, according to Hawkins.

“There’s more teamwork,” Hawkins said. “Since there are two people in the boat that you’re sailing, you need to communicate within the boat and also between the two other boats on your team.”

Young agreed, adding that practices and races become more fun in the spring because they become a joint effort. 

“I love spring because you get more people involved in every race,” Young said. “Practices in [the] spring are team-based and they’re a lot more fun, too.” 

On Tuesday, the Intercollegiate Sailing Association announced that Dartmouth qualified for both the open and women’s team race national championships. The sailing team has one last weekend of regattas to continue honing their skills before they travel to nationals on the weekend of April 25. 

On April 20 and 21, the open team will compete at Brown University, and the women’s team will compete in Brunswick, Maine. The Big Green will also compete in the Mendum’s Pond Fleet Race in Durham, New Hampshire on April 21. In preparation for these races, the team has been updating and practicing their strategy, according to Assad. 

“Two things we’re focused on right now are trying to make sure we get off the starting line clean, easy and with options,” Assad said. “The other is performance under pressure and working on anticipating what moves our opponents are going to use, or taking the offensive and being the first one to make a move as conditions change.”

Hawkins said these last few races will serve as a good opportunity to prepare and continue improving.

“I’m hoping the peak of the spring is nationals,” Hawkins said. “I think that all the events we do leading up to nationals are training events for the big dance.”