About College Sailing
History and Governing Authority:
College sailing began on an informal, club basis in the 1890's, and organized racing started in 1928. It has grown to include more than 200 active colleges, and racing now occurs on every weekend during fall and spring seasons and on many weekends during the winter. It is a truly coeducational sport, and it has proved itself the best incubator for the development of racing skills. Former college sailors have always numbered significantly among Olympic medallists and America's Cup competitors.
Many colleges that race also offer excellent and extensive recreational and instructional programs to members of their communities and, in a number of cases, to the general public. Education and training have been the corner stones of the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA), the governing authority, since its inception. The introduction of novices to the sport of sailing and the providing of opportunities for the recreational sailor has often prompted colleges and universities to offer more extensive and significant support to programs than would have been the case without these services. MIT, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, College of Charleston, and the University of California at Irvine are particularly notable, for at each of these institutions many hundreds of students, faculty and staff participate. The vast majority of college sailing is done in double and single handed dinghies, but some programs do have intermediate sloops, offshore and cruising boats, or sailboards to offer their members.
The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) is the governing authority for sailing competition at colleges and universities throughout the United States and in some parts of Canada. There are seven District Associations that schedule and administer regattas within their established geographic regions:
Middle Atlantic (MAISA), Midwest (MCSA), New England (NEISA), Northwest (NWICSA), Pacific Coast (PCCSC), South Atlantic (SAISA), and South-Eastern (SEISA).
The routine operations of each District fall under the supervision of its Graduate Secretary and its Executive Committee, which is comprised of both undergraduates and graduate advisers or coaches. Each District conducts local and Intersectional events and holds District Championships to qualify teams for the ICSA North American Championships.
The ICSA Intersectional Schedule Coordinator manages the setting of dates and formats for an extensive schedule of Intersectional regattas, which include participation by clubs and teams from two or more Districts.
The ICSA is a volunteer organization and has benefited greatly from the unselfish assistance of many individuals over the decades. Many US Sailing Judges have been generous in giving time to serve as officials at the district and national levels. Former college sailors play a large part in advising, guiding , and coaching current undergraduates and have been significant in numerous efforts to establish and upgrade college fleets.
The North American Championships or "Nationals"
North American Championships are held in six categories. Women's Single-handed (new in 1994), Men's Single-Handed, and Sloop Championships are conducted in the fall, while Women's Dinghy, Coed Dinghy, and Team Racing take place in the spring. The college team that compiles the best overall record in the six categories is awarded the Leonard M. Fowle Trophy, which honors the "Father of College Sailing", who guided the development and expansion of college sailing from 1930 until 1976.
Teams must qualify for the North Americans through District Championships. All events are scored low-point with no throw-out races. Racing is done on short courses. Boats are usually rotated each race so that each team sails each boat in the fleet once. Most events are two-division A and B with the scores of each division added for a final team score.
The ICSA North American Championships rotate amongst the seven different Districts each year.
Introduction to College Sailing/FAQ's
by Adam Werblow
How come sailing is not an NCAA sport?
The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) is the governing body of intercollegiate sailing, not the NCAA. Early in the 20th century a group of savvy business types got together and founded an organization purely devoted to competitive sailing at the collegiate level (the Inter-Collegiate Yacht Racing Association). In this manner, sailors ensured that they could govern their own sport rather than some ex-basketball coach who couldn't care less about a bunch of sailors. Most importantly to college sailors, the ICSA hosts the North American championships each year to determine which college is, in fact, #1.
O.K., so the ICSA governs the national scene, but who runs the show on the local level?
Under the ICSA lie seven member districts that are determined geographically. These include the Northeastern (NEISA), Middle Atlantic (MAISA), South Atlantic (SAISA), Southeastern (SEISA), Midwestern (MCSA), Pacific Coast (PCIYRA), and Northwestern (NWICSA) districts. They each have their own executive board, much like state government versus federal.
O.K., where do I bring my boat?
College sailing is made as simple as possible by design. Host schools provide all of the necessary equipment except for personal gear such as life jackets, boots, and spray suits. All the collegiate sailor has to do is show up. Note: this means the perfect college sailor can hop onto any boat and make it go. One weekend you might sail in a 420 at Navy and the next weekend you might sail in a Flying Junior at Connecticut College.
What different levels of competition exist?
Varsity - The varsity regattas are called "major intersectionals" because they include colleges from each of the national districts. The size of the events range from 10-20 schools depending on the host schools facilities. These regattas have the highest level of skill and competition and are open to any college sailor regardless of sex or class. Intersectionals are always for trophies and major prestige. The results in this circuit alone are what make up the national rankings.
Minor Varsity - These regattas are held solely within the local district and are restricted to competitor teams from within that district. Competition can still be at a very high level as team's 3rd and 4th skippers/crews sail at these events.
Women's - These regattas are open to only women. There are both local and major intersectional women's events. Also the women have their own national rankings.
Freshman - any frosch sailor. That is, anyone who is in their- first year of college.
Keel boats - This far smaller circuit is held in "Big Boats". "Big boat" events involve boats other than centerboard dinghies. (Some collegiate regattas use J-22's, J-24's, Shields, E-22's, Luders etc. . .)
Wait a minute, this sounds like a lot of people, how many events are there?
On an average weekend as few as two or as many as ten regattas may be scheduled. This is one of the most exciting things about college sailing - everyone (not just the rock stars) get a chance to sail and not just once twice, but actually quite frequently! Of course, money is always the last word, and going to regattas takes lots of it! So the bigger your budget, the more regattas you get to attend.
How does a typical regatta work?
The number of entrants and races are determined by the number of boats owned by the host school. For instance, St. Mary's has 18 FJ's. Therefore a regatta at St. Mary's might have 18 colleges race 18 races in each of two divisions. Generally collegiate regattas have two divisions, an A div. and B division. (Although some special events have more.) The two divisions take turns sailing: First A sails two races then B sails two. The divisions keep switching back and forth until each school has sailed in every boat thereby eliminating any chance that the boat and not the talent of the team will determine the outcome. Finally the scores from each division are added together and the team with the lowest combined score wins.
How does a college team prepare for weekend regattas?
Although every team is different, a typical week of practice might go like the following:
All circuits practice together as one team. Each day has a new theme which is emphasized through a variety of drills thrown in to keep practice exciting, spontaneous, challenging, and fun. A typical collegiate practice is rigorous. The coach will start out with a drill which help warm up boat handling skills and get the skipper and crew working together. It takes time to get the sailors minds off schoolwork and into sailing; these drills facilitate such a transition. Think of them as both physical and mental exercise. (Such drills include rudderless sailing, blindfold sailing, constant gybing/tacking, figure eights, etc . . .) One day each week is devoted solely to racing and practice results are tabulated to help determine the starting sailors. Team racing is also emphasized one day a week where team members have to work together as a unit. One of the most helpful drills is the "crew race" - where the skipper and crew switch places; this is very successful and popular because each person learns to appreciate the difficulty and expertise it takes to succeed at their partners job. Practice runs Monday through Thursday (Friday is reserved for traveling) from 2:45 until sunset.
The season is active in the Fall from Labor Day until Christmas and in the Spring from February 1 to mid-June when the Collegiate North American Championships are held.
The National Rankings
The final aspect of sailing that probably lies first in all sailor's minds is the National Rankings. The rankings are published in Sailing World magazine twice a semester and are voted on by a panel of three coaches. During the season these coaches assess the performance of teams and rank them accordingly, one through twenty (for varsity) and one through 15 for the women.