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Sailing qualifies for national championships in first season as club team

File Photo by Sydney Walsh
Sailing captain Ruby Gordon said 14 seniors will graduate this spring, so the team will look to rebuild its talent in the freshman class.

Updated: May 16, 2022 at 2:05 p.m.

GW’s club sailing team will compete in a national sailing tournament in New Orleans this week in its first season since it was cut as an official athletic program at GW, after qualifying in a regional regatta earlier this month.

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

The national championship berth marks sailing’s continued success in its first season as a club after GW cut the athletic program alongside five other sports in 2020. The cut stripped the team of its funding and coaching staff for the 2021-22 season, but the squad held its grip on national competition, placing tenth place at the Coed National Championship in October.

The Colonials registered 151 points overall, with 92 points from the Division A boat and 59 from the Division B boat, finishing nine points behind Georgetown, who recorded 142 points in total.

During the fall semester, the Colonials placed first at the Mid Atlantic Fall Dinghy Champion­ships, earning 121 points in total after compiling 76 in Division A and 45 in Division B and reaching its 12th ranking in the ICSA.

“Once we won conference championships in the fall, that was when we realized, ‘Okay, it’s time to crack down a little bit more and get the intensity up and start focusing on the fact that we will be going to nationals, and we will be one of the most competitive teams there,’” sailing captain Ruby Gordon said in an interview. “And we’re one of the most competitive teams.”

Gordon said student-athletes had to rebuild the program without any guidance from their past coaching staff during what was a “super scary” transition to a club team from an athletic program recognized by GW. She said she was thankful for the seniors who stuck by the team and helped them continue sailing against varsity-level competition even as a club.

Gordon said the members of the team felt anxious and “on edge” leading up to the regatta, where qualifying for the national championships was on the line, but they relied on each other to turn their mindset around and have fun sailing. She said 14 seniors to graduate this spring, so the team will look to rebuild its talent in the freshman class while a more inexperienced team will need to continue its competitive pace into the fall season.

“I see us as really laying the groundwork for a large freshman class and showing them this is how we can and we will continue to operate,” she said. “And this is what we’ll do until we either are reinstated as varsity or we continue to be an incredibly successful club.”

Gordon said the team still practices without a coach and can’t afford a coaching salary without University funding, but they will work to recruit alumni and current sailors that have previous experience to coach them during the championship season. She said since the team is student-led, there have been more opportunities to see where athletes have been making mistakes and fix them as the students themselves run practices.

“So we all came into the gym knowing that it was a chance, that we had nothing to prove ourselves,” she said. “But I know especially for me, I felt like, ‘Okay, every regatta counts more than ever,’ which I think should always be our mindset.”

Junior captain Emma AuBuchon said the team struggled organizing their trip to New Orleans for nationals, juggling with logistics with the hotel, flight schedules and their individual schedules, but they all worked together to communicate plans to ensure the team would compete at nationals.

“Another aspect that was challenging for the captains was to make a lineup of sailors for nationals that would help the team be prepared for any weather conditions or unexpected scenarios,” AuBuchon said. “As a club, planning the logistics for nationals required a lot of teamwork and communication to help all the moving parts fit together.”

Sophomore secretary Elizabeth Ellis said the team stayed on campus an extra week to train with practices twice a day, which include running drills, weekly regattas and team lifts to prepare for nationals.

“We are very excited to be able to compete in both women’s and coed’s fleet race nationals,” Ellis said. “We have all worked very hard and everyone on the team is proud to have this opportunity.”

This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet previously misquoted Gordon in reference to the team’s continued success, whether as a reinstated varisty program or as a club team. The correct quote is now reflected. We regret this error.

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