Early days for girls in college sailing

Published on May 3rd, 2022

The complaint about college sailing is the doublehanded boats require small-sized people, and while this may exclude some males, the boats tend to be well suited for most girls. In this story by Donald Street, he recalls when this advantage was not exploited:


In 1949 I arrived at Catholic University in Washington, DC and discovered my classmate Ed Rogers raced Comets on the Chesapeake Bay, and soon we met “Boomer” Curran who had raced various classes in Winthrop, MA. The school was without a sailing team, so the three of us decided to form one.

While we had no boats, we learned George Washington University had a sailing team and boats. They operated out of Buzzard Point boatyard on the Anacostia River, and as the yard was just downstream from the big electric power plant, the warm water from the power plant meant the river never froze.

George Washington was one of the top teams in the mid-Atlantic, and we made a deal with them to maintain their boats in exchange for using them. Once we recruited a few girls as crew, and got on the water, we were very pleased to discover we could do quite well.

By 1952 we had done so well, we convinced the University to give us money to buy the four boats from Stevens University in New Jersey as they were buying new boats. Like George Washington, we also based our boats at Buzzards Point boatyard.

But a year later, the boys in the Naval Academy were getting their noses out of joint as both George Washington and Catholic U were sailing with female crew which gave us weight advantage over their male crews, helping both school to frequently beat them.

The Naval Academy had a seat on the governing body of the mid-Atlantic conference and tried to initiate a minimum crew weight limit to take away this advantage, but thankfully I had a couple of a couple of drinking buddies from western Long Island Sound on the committee who voted against the minimum weight limit.

I think Catholic U and George Washington were the only two teams on the East Coast that had girls racing.

Editor’s note: Don was a class or two ahead of Katherine Delanoy who had shared a similar experience.

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