Yale University emerged victorious in the inaugural Women’s Team Race National Championship, hosted by Brown University in late April. The Bulldogs of Yale finished the event with a 13-3 overall record, behind an impressive group of sailors, including three fantastic first-year skippers, Mia Nicolosi, Emma Cowles, and Carmen Cowles. Those three Yale youngsters sailed with a depth of crews, Meredith Ryan ’23 and Ximena Escobar ’25 (sailing with Mia Nicolosi), Anisha Arcot ’23 and Helena Ware ’23 (sailing with Emma Cowles), and Becca Rose ’22 and Megan Grimes ’24 (sailing with Carmen Cowles).
The regatta started slowly on Saturday as a dying and uncertain northerly occupied the race course before the sunny skies and warm temperatures gave way to a 15-knot knot seabreeze from the south. The wind and waves presented challenging conditions for the team racers, and it was clear a prowess for sailing the boats in breeze needed to be coupled with solid team racing to find success. Picking passthroughs were paramount and a lack of control on the runs could prove fatal.
“I’ve always tried to approach every regatta (whether it be international, national, or local regattas), the same way; it’s just another regatta,” said Yale skipper, Carmen Cowles. “They’ll all have starts, upwinds, and downwinds. This helped me create a routine and stay level-headed when competing at events that are in fact potentially very stressful and of high caliber. When approaching the Women’s Team Race Nationals, I stuck to the same M.O. Throughout the event, as a team, we very much focused on emphasizing this method of sticking to the process, not the result.”
While second-place-finishing Boston College and third place Stanford seemed to be the two teams in closest contention to the eventual victors, it was the home team, Brown, who controlled the regatta after Saturday’s racing (after 56 races) and throughout the wind delays of Sunday.
Yale began the event with four straight wins before faltering to Dartmouth in race 25. Brown began the event with three straight wins and a loss to Stanford before finishing the first day with a five-race win streak.
“This regatta is such an important moment for the ICSA,” said Yale Head Coach, Zack Leonard. “The level of sailing on Sunday was very high.”
Sunday morning, like Saturday began with light air but enough to get some racing in. The Principal Race Officer, Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick (Brown 2017), showed patience and poise in less-than-ideal racing conditions.
Brown continued their winning ways with a win over Yale, strengthening their hold on the regatta, and a win over University of South Florida to finish the first round with a 10-1 record. However, the Bears stumbled in the top-6 round finishing with a 1-4 record and an overall record of 11-5, enough for a fourth-place finish.
Yale’s three losses came at the hands of Dartmouth College and Brown University in the first round (a round where the bulldogs finished with a 9-2 record) and against Stanford University—Yale’s only blemish in the top-six round.
“We had two injuries that caused our season to be really challenging,” continued Mr. Leonard. “The team was really great at sticking together and supporting each other. Each sailor worked hard to fulfill their role to the best of their ability and each of them played a big role. It was truly a team effort.”
Boston College finished second overall with a 12-4 record, winning a tie-break against Stanford due to a 2-0 head to head record against the Cardinal. BC’s success came behind Sophia Reineke’s ’22 undeniable experience on the team race course and the quickness of sophomores Colleen and Michaela O’Brien. BC, like Yale sailed 6 crews at the event, Nicole Moeder ’22, Elizabeth Shanahan ’23, Katelyn McGauley ’24, Lilly Mathieu ’23, Laura Ferraris ’22 and Emma Batcher ’22.
Stanford finished third at 12-4 with skippers Michelle Lahrkamp, Hannah Freeman, and Steph Houck and crews Trish Gerli, Sammy Pickell, Abby Tindall, Gwen Donahue, and Grace Austin.
“In the past, my team consisted of just Emma and me,” continued Ms. Cowles. “Whereas now, for instance this weekend, my team included eight other people: Anisha Arcot, Emma Cowles, Ximena Escobar, Megan Grimes, Mia Nicolosi, Meredith Ryan, Becca Rose, and Helena Ware. This larger support system means that yes, if a teammate is having a bad day, it affects the whole team. However, when I’m having a bad day, it’s no longer on just Emma’s shoulders to pull me out of the rut; I can depend on many more people.”
“Women’s team racing is important as it provides greater opportunities for women to learn and compete at a high level. Some teams might not have the depth nor space to have women compete on the coed team race circuit. This opportunity also encourages more women to sail and overall, it raises the bar,” finished Cowles.
“The addition of the Women’s Team Race National Championship shows the commitment of the ICSA to women’s sailing,” said ICSA President, Mitch Brindley. “Most college sailing teams focus their training and practice during the busy spring season on team race skills and tactics. It was becoming more evident that we needed more competitive opportunities for our women’s sailors in team racing. And it is evident that this new championship has inspired teams to push for greater development of their women’s roster.”