Competition, Coaching, and Camaraderie

Published on March 19th, 2019

Sailing is male dominated for no other reason than history, and while the sport does require strength, the hurdles for women toward participation tend to be more cultural. Change requires opportunity which can be found at the U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship. Ariana Smaldone reports on the event:

Competitive racing, high-performance coaching, and camaraderie are all elements of the U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship for the Leiter Trophy, commonly referred to as “the Leiter”. This unique event is where junior Laser Radial and Laser 4.7 (a new addition for the 2019 regatta) women sailors encourage each other to achieve their sailing goals while creating lasting relationships.

Some of the past Leiter winners and participants provide some insight about their connection to the event and why they recommend it to all junior women sailors:

Why were you initially drawn to participate in the Leiter?

“It sounded like a lot of fun and a great experience to travel and attend a high-performance clinic and regatta just for girls!” shared Hannah Steadman, a Junior on the Brown University women’s team.

Janel DeCurtis, a former Roger Williams University sailor, found that sailing at the Leiter, “Provided that extensive focus on the decision-making skills and techniques that I needed to master before competing as a woman skipper at the collegiate level.”

Share your experience from the Leiter Championship and how the regatta impacted your development as a Laser sailor.

“Participating in the Leiter gave me the opportunity to establish relationships with college coaches, which made the college recruiting process more comfortable and less stressful,” said Dana Rohde, a 2018 graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy and 2013 winner of the Leiter. “I also started lifelong friendships at the Leiter that have lasted throughout college and beyond!”

Would you recommend that a sailor who is new to the Laser attend the Leiter?

“The Leiter Championship was one of the first regattas I did in the Laser,” recalled Grace Austin, who finished second in the 2018 Leiter. “I went into the first day of the clinic without knowing anyone and with very little experience in the boat.

“But immediately, I met girls with all ranges of experiences, from those who had been in the class for three or four years, to those like myself who were newer to the boat. From the start, I was impressed with the coaches’ ability to give specific, in-depth feedback to each sailor depending on their level of experience.”

Janel DeCurtis agreed, “YES! Even if you are new to the Laser, the coaches split the clinic into skill level, so there was a beginner, intermediate, and advanced group. This organization propelled each group to grasp the concepts most suited to their needs without hindering the ability for other sailors to excel.”

Talia Toland, a sailor on the Tufts University Sailing Team advised, “Absolutely, if you are new and have not had much coaching, the coaches at the Leiter give you so many tips and tricks that will make you faster and a better competitor. More time in the boat and more exposure to top sailors and coaches will make your learning curve very steep”. Talia claimed the Leiter title in 2016.

Were you able to put the coaching feedback from the clinic into action at the regatta?

“Yes, the clinic portion was key to warming up and getting ready for the regatta, as it is always great to get new input from different coaches and see things from a different perspective,” said Louisa Nordstrom, a Junior on the Yale University Sailing Team and 2015 winner of the Leiter Trophy.

Do you still talk to some of the friends that you made at the event?

2018 runner up, Grace Austin, frequently sees many of the sailors she met last year, “I definitely made lifelong friends at Leiter. I see them at every regatta I go to, and I am so happy that I was able to make these friendships that carry through my journey as a Laser sailor, through college and beyond.”

The 2019 Leiter will be on July 8-13 in Richmond, California. Details.

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