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Significant change for women

Published on September 3rd, 2023

Bowdoin, a private liberal arts college along coastal Maine, is looking to build on last year’s success on the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) circuit.

Last spring, the team broke records at the Women’s Fleet Race Nationals, finishing in fifth place, exceeding Bowdoin sailing’s previous highest-ever finish—10th place in 2022. Lizzy Kaplan ’23 was named an Honorable Mention All-American skipper by the ICSA.

“That was the best finish in Bowdoin sailing history,” said last year’s captain Hattie Slayton ’23. “We’re sailing against [teams] like Harvard and Yale and Georgetown and Penn. These schools that have a lot more students and a lot more money.… It’s pretty cool to be a small school and still be able to compete against them.”

The 2022-23 season witnessed some major milestones for women’s sailing, not just for Bowdoin’s women’s sailing team, but within the sport as a whole, amid the four spring national championships: Open (co-ed) Fleet Race, Women’s Fleet Race, Open Team Race, and Women’s Team Race.

“Sailing is a sexist sport,” Slayton said. “The reason why there’s a women’s division is because they weren’t allowed in the sport until quite recently.”

When Slayton started her Bowdoin career in 2019, there was no women’s division in team racing. This year, Stanford’s predominantly female team took historic wins in both the Open and Women’s Fleet Race—both championships Bowdoin qualified for.

“It’s pretty awesome that [Bowdoin sailing] women are competing on the national level and doing better than our co-ed, or open, team,” Slayton said. “We have a lot of first-year women skippers who are coming this year and I’m super excited to see what they do with these [upperclassmen] role models.”

Slayton is excited for Bowdoin sailing to have more female skippers because women have historically been pushed into being crews. As the skipper is often referred to more than the crew, this influx of women skippers is a significant change.

Slayton looks forward to seeing more women succeed in the sport.

“The first women’s team racing nationals happened two years ago (2022),” Slayton said. “That’s the other reason why it’s so exciting that now we have a lot more female skippers.… I’m so excited about women in the sport of sailing right now.”


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