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College Sailor of the Year: What About Crews?

Tom Charpentier 6 years ago

Why is College Sailor of the Year an award given to skippers only? For the most part it honors excellence in doublehanded sailing, and the last time I checked an FJ is not very fast without a crew. Giving the award to just the skipper seems to deny any possibility that outstanding crew work and team chemistry was at least partially responsible for the duo’s success. Do you know many skippers who can just hop in a boat with any college-level crew and win an intersectional? Probably not.

Sure, there are team sports that can showcase incredible individual performances. It is easy to pick out the talent of a blisteringly fast runningback or a superior power hitter. But doublehanded sailing isn’t one of these sports. When we watch sailing we are watching the holistic performance of the boat, not that of the skipper or the crew. How do we know who called that shift or nailed that start? Yes, good skippers will have success with a number of crews, but so will good crews with regards to skippers. In some classes like the 505 there are owners who crew on their own boats and look for drivers to sail with, due to their body type or just because they like crewing. It doesn’t mean they’re any less of a sailor than the skipper.

What I propose is simply a slight tweak to the existing Sailor of the Year system – The selectors would first choose a skipper for Coed and Woman’s Sailors of the Year. They would then name up to two crews for each to share the award based on sailing time in top results (in most cases probably only one crew would be chosen, but two allows for flexibility in the event of a skipper with alternating crews or a heavy with several regattas worth of playing time). It is still a skipper-based system, but it officially acknowledges that there was a second person in the boat, and it provides a crew award higher than All-American to recognize contribution to a truly outstanding performance, just as there is for skippers.

What do you think? Does the current system do enough to acknowledge crews? Do crews deserve the same level of recognition as skippers? Do Collegiate FJs and 420s emphasize the talent of the crew less as opposed to more technical classes like the 29er? Have at it!

Comments7 comments

Anonymous Coward 5 years ago

Why would anyone choose to crew if his impact is so small? Is crewing just a lower level position waiting to be promoted to skipper. What's in it for the crew if there's no recognition?

Brooke Thomson 6 years ago

I think this brings up a lot of good questions that there might not be able to be really resolved. it's great to want to consider the crew more in awards, but unfortunately I do know a couple skippers who can win Intersectionals with any college-level crew.

I have to agree with Dan that a good skipper can win with a mediocre (or even bad) crew, while a rock-star crew can only do so much with a mediocre skipper. As Dan said, the most "winningest" crew shouldn't be confused with the best crew. Another consideration is that the best crews are actually unlikely to be the most "winningest" because best crew on a team isn't necessarily sailing with the best skipper. While you can tally up points with skippers, there's no way to really know with crews.

Should the crew who sails with the "College Sailor of the Year" get more acknowledgment? Maybe. However a part of college crewing is that crews are interchangeable, and it's not rare that the skipper has to train new crews through the year/semester. That crew is probably still very good, but there also will likely be slightly more deserving crews in the fleet. Any type of a voting-system even among competitors would still be pretty biased and it would be hard to vote for crews you've never personally sailed with. As for crews being groomed/trained, it's not a gender issue; the same goes for women's team sailors and dude-crews.

Outside of college sailing, crewing is a different sport and in a lot of ways I think college crewing takes away some skills that are important in non-college sailing. In order to make sailing a team sport, it's sacrificed a lot of the components that make sailing fun for a crew. Without a spinnaker, trapeze, or any other equipment in the front of the boat, college crews have limited responsibility in the boat. Other boats and other types of racing offer crews a lot more responsibility and partnership in the boat. There is the example of 505s or 49ers, or even Sarah Lihan opting to crew 470's rather than stay in Lasers. Being good at team racing is definitely an exciting challenge for both crews and skippers, but college team racing is mostly in the hands of the skippers. I think that because college sailing is so standardized, the talent of the crew is a lot less noticeable and overall crews unfortunately make less of a difference than in other types of racing or boats.

we do know 6 years ago

Honestly, sometimes it is kinda obvious who the best crew is. Like when Marla Menninger sailed with Thomas B half the races to win A division at nationals by 30+ points and then Jane M to win women's nationals and women's sailor of the year all in san francisco a couple years back. So yes, the sailors do know who the best crews are, whether they get an award or not. Oh, and no boat emphasizes the talent of the crew less than the tech. those things are a joke.

hemanwumanhatersclub 6 years ago

really? guys groom girl crews. does anyone see a problem with that?

Anonymous 6 years ago

It isn't hard to pick top crews. Its hard for coaches to pick crews, which is how All-American status is gained. The better way to do it would be to have competitors vote for top crews. Maybe have the All-American skippers vote for a "Crew of the Year"?

Tom Charpentier 6 years ago

You wouldn't be picking "Crews of the Year," you would simply be honoring the crew(s) that sailed a majority of the time with the Sailor of the Year alongside his/her skipper. In other words it would become sort of a "Boat of the Year" award. Are they going to be absolutely the most talented crew in the ICSA? Maybe not, but that doesn't mean they didn't contribute to the success of the boat.

6 years ago

Point taken, but it's too hard to objectively evaluate crews' performances. The fact is that an outstanding skipper with a mediocre crew can still win, especially if he has all semester to groom her into a great crew. But an outstanding crew with a mediocre skipper will only get the pair so far. So if you pick the winningest crew in ICSA, she won't necessarily be the most talented, and if you just go by what all-american committee members have seen in person, you're going to get a biased selection.

It's hard enough to pick All American crews as it is. Picking 1 or 2 crews of the year would be nearly impossible.

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