Cowles Twins: Finding their own way

Published on January 20th, 2020

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Carmen and Emma Cowles were on the path toward the Olympics, winning twice at the World Sailing Youth World Championships in the International 420, a boat that’s the younger sibling to the Olympic 470 Class.

But that path got shortened when the Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy events, in which the 470 was used, got changed to a Mixed Two Person Dinghy for Paris 2024. If the sibling twin duo was to get to the Games together in a 470, it was now or never, as Tokyo 2020 was last call.

So began their introduction to the 470 in September 2018, and while that would normally be an unrealistic time frame to get up to speed, these 2018 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year winners also knew the US program had vacancies when two medal-worthy US teams retired after Rio 2016.

They saw the current landscape of first quad campaigners within reach, so why not? Why not delay entrance to Yale University (both of them, poor parents) and go all in to see what can happen?

What’s happened is they are in the fight, with nearly nothing separating them from the two other top teams after the first event of the selection process. Two more stages remain, with the 2020 results from the World Cup Series Miami and Class World Championships deciding their fate.

After starting the year by winning the 470 North Americans, they are beginning to see what could happen. So, on a drizzly afternoon before the Miami test, I caught up with the 19 year old twins for some speed questions and one thoughtful inquiry:

Morning riser:
“I’m up first…I get hungry.” – Carmen

Regatta Breakfast:
“It starts with either oatmeal/fruit or plain Greek yogurt/fruit/granola but always later followed by an egg/ham sandwich… we need to gain weight.” – Emma

Daily food in the coach boat:
“PBJ sandwiches – three each.” – Carmen

Airplane seat:
“We both want the aisle, which one of us gets, unless we are traveling with our dad. Then he gets it.” – Emma

Guilty pleasure:
“I’m not a coffee drinker or a chocolate eater, but give me that Haagen-Dazs Java Chip Ice Cream.” – Carmen

Things Coach Steve Keen says:
“Tiny touch, Little squeeze, A gnat’s whisker.” – Emma

Adjustment from the 420:
“While the 470 is significantly more technical than the 420, what we are adapting to is the difference between balancing school and sailing with the 420 versus being in a full-time effort with the 470.” – Carmen
“With the 420 we were in a structured environment with mostly domestic events, whereas with the 470 we are finding our own way, determining how best to use our time while filtering loads of ‘how to’ information to find what works best for us.” – Emma
“What’s critical is a support system, particularly when helping with logistics during regattas. Like our dad says, ‘Roger Federer doesn’t make his own sandwiches’.” – Carmen

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