An effort to diversify collegiate sailing

Published on February 23rd, 2022

The Undefeated is a website owned and operated by ESPN which seeks to explore the intersections of race, sports, and culture. In this report, the publication looks at an initiative occurring in college sailing:

Competitive sailing is so white even the overwhelmingly white participants can’t help but notice how white it is. “I feel like it’s a pretty well-known fact, a stereotype that holds true,’’ observed Cori Radtke, the assistant sailing coach at Maine’s Bowdoin College.

It’s so white that many of those same white competitors have committed to an initiative to study, understand, and change the demographics of the sports at the college level. Even with its tiny numbers of Black and other non-white participants, they still far exceed those at the national level and in Olympic and other competitive circles.

Preston Anderson created The Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Task Force (TIDE) in college sailing. TIDE owes its existence, motivation, and driving force to one of the few Black collegiate sailors, who has lived with being a rarity in his sport since he first took it up as an 8-year-old growing up in the suburbs of Chicago.

For Anderson, a senior at Bowdoin, creating TIDE in the summer of 2020 grew from being questioned about whether he belonged in the sport he loved by the predominantly white sailing world and by the Black community that implied loving sailing meant he was less Black.

“Yes, there are two parts to this,” Anderson said with a chuckle. “Friends and acquaintances of mine who really didn’t understand it, [asking] why are you doing this, trying to challenge my identity. Then you had others who you know in sailing; they were going off all of the stereotypes, seeing and hearing things about why you were there, when you were the only one there.”

Anderson’s sparking the movement to broaden collegiate sailing two summers ago was no coincidence – it was created in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the social and racial reckoning movement that followed.

Anderson first spoke to his Bowdoin coaches, Radtke and head coach Frank Pizzo, about the imbalance evident to them and others in the sport. Then Anderson began reaching out to athletes at other schools in their conference, the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association, one of the seven U.S. conferences that make up the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA). – Full report

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