10 Things to Know About GW Athletics' Newest Varsity Program - Sailing

GW Sailing officially becomes the Department of Athletics' 23rd varsity sport on July 1.

June 29, 2012

With GW Sailing set to become the Department of Athletics' 23rd varsity program on July 1, GWsports.com has put together a brief list of the `Top 10 Things to Know About Sailing' to help you follow and cheer on the Colonials in their inaugural season in 2012-13:

#1 - GW's home venue is the Potomac River, and its home facility is the Washington Sailing Marina located just across the river from Foggy Bottom in Alexandria, off George Washington Memorial Parkway on Daingerfield Island.

#2 - A longtime club program, GW has and will continue to compete in both the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) and Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (MAISA). The MAISA conference consists of 35 regular members, 11 associate members and four provisional members, the most notable being the Colonials' district rival Georgetown, which captured this year's ICSA/GILL Coed National Championship in Austin, Texas.

GW will also compete against varsity MAISA programs such as College of Charleston, Hampton, Navy, Old Dominion, St. Mary's College (Md.), the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and new head coach John Pearce's alma mater - Hobart and William Smith Colleges - as well as varsity programs in the New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) and South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (SAISA).

#3 - The racing seasons run in both fall and spring, typically from early September to mid-November and late February to mid-May. Most competitions will be held along the Eastern Seaboard in New England, the Chesapeake Basin and the Finger Lakes, even for programs located on the West Coast and in the South Atlantic. GW competes in events such as Old Dominion University's Riley Cup, Hampton University's Edward Teach Memorial, Georgetown's Tom Curtis Regatta, and the America Trophy - the MAISA conference championship and national qualifying event



#4 - As a club team GW's roster consisted of roughly 20-30 sailors for its fleet of 10 boats. Fleets typically consist of 18 boats, with rosters of roughly 30-35 sailors. GW generally competes in two types of regattas - Women's (all female) and Coed (any mixture of males and females) - both of which require two-person crews on a racing dinghy. The Colonials' 10-boat fleet consists of 10 Flying Juniors, or FJs - which is a class of sailing dinghy.

#5 - Sailing events are called regattas and generally consist of 18 competing teams over 18 races on Saturday and Sunday, although smaller events with fewer teams and races are normal. Regatta races typically last 10-15 minutes over varying course lengths, which is determined by wind strength and course conditions. Regattas typically start around 9:30 a.m. and run anywhere from 4-7 p.m. depending on the size of the event and course conditions.

#6 - Teams do not travel their own boats to competitions, but rather use the host venues existing fleet on a pre-determined rotation. Teams are broken into `A' and `B' Divisions, with each division participating in two races, called a `set,' before the other division races. Team scores are determined by a boat's finish in each race - a first-place finish earns one point, sixth earns six, 18th earns 18, etc. - and the lowest total at the conclusion of the event is crowned the winner.

#7 - The positions on a boat are Skipper - the sailor steering the vessel - and Crew - the sailor controlling the sail and position his or her body weight strategically around the vessel. Ideal combined weight is between 270-280 lbs., although a heavier combined weight is preferable in windy conditions.

#8 - It is not uncommon for boats to collide while racing, especially in high-wind conditions and larger regattas. Rules govern right of way and in situations where sailors acknowledge wrong-doing in a collision, they must maneuver their boat in a `720' - or two spins - which generally yields a 5-to-10 boat-length disadvantage. If a boat guilty of causing a collision does not acknowledge its wrong-doing, on-site judges could disqualify the boat and issue a score total of the entire size of the fleet plus an additional two (i.e. 18-boat fleet, disqualified score of 18 plus two for total of 20).

#9 - According to head coach John Pearce, the process of becoming an expert sailor lies in three key areas broken into a triangle. At the base of the triangle is handling of the boat and whether a sailor is able to maneuver the boat in any conditions. The second, "middle" area is speed and how fast a sailor can make the boat go. The third area at the apex is a sailor's mental strategy for attacking the course and its conditions. A great sailor is able to maneuver the boat well at any speed, maximize the boat's speed in any conditions, and plot the best course amongst the other competing boats.

Coach Pearce also cites fitness as an important factor, as fitter teams are more likely to succeed, especially in light-wind situations as the boat must be "muscled" forward.

#10 - The most fertile recruiting grounds are in the coastal areas of New England, especially Massachusetts, as well as Florida and California. Head coach John Pearce also expects to mine areas like the Great Lakes, where "diamond-in-the-rough type" sailors often compete off the radar of varsity college recruiters. Coach Pearce will also seek student-athletes who fit the strong academic profile of GW.

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