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BRSN Athlete of the Week Q & A: Women’s Sailing Senior Skipper Quinn Howes

Hi Quinn, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with BRSN and congratulations on your fantastic weekend! You ended the Faye Bennet MAISA Women’s Singles in fifth place overall, registering nine top five and five races in the top three. That’s a lot of time on the water! How do you stay mentally and physically motivated during these long weekends? It’s impossible to get through a full weekend of racing without being able to focus on each race as an individual event. While it’s important to try to see patterns and learn from previous mistakes throughout the day, it’s equally crucial to treat each new race as a fresh opportunity. This past weekend we saw some pretty heavy winds and good waves in Annapolis which will leave you completely exhausted after a couple of thirty-minute races; we completed eight races in these conditions on Saturday. This is where the long hours of physical training and mental endurance pay off and the most successful sailors are able to focus on strategy and come out on top.

As the top four finishers at the Faye Bennet MAISA Women’s Singles qualify automatically, you narrowly missed earning a spot in the ICSA Singlehanded Nationals. Are nationals still in your sights? If yes, how will you get there? The berths for Nationals are allotted based on a formula that includes the number of teams in each of the seven collegiate conferences. There are only 18 berths for the whole country; at this point all the berths have been allotted. We still have our conference championship in late October for doublehanded, which could qualify for the Atlantic Coast Championship in November, as well as doublehanded Nationals which occurs in the spring semester. There are plenty of goals still in store for our team!

You were a member of Cornell’s first varsity sailing team in 2015 and competed in 12 varsity regattas as captain. What was it like competing in and captaining a new varsity sport? During my freshman and sophomore years, our team competed as a club sport. Last year, having the support of Cornell Athletics and the endless resources available to varsity athletes allowed us to make significant progress in terms of physical fitness and on-campus support. While we initially faced some hurdles transitioning from club to varsity, we finished 12th in the nation last year and peaked during the National Championship. It’s exciting for the college sailing community as a whole to see more and more women’s programs gaining support across the country.

When did you first start sailing? I’ve been sailing since before I learned to walk. My parents taught my three brothers and myself how to sail on a family catboat when I was two, and I began racing competitively in optis at the age of nine.

Can you walk us through a typical training session? On the water sessions generally last anywhere between 2-3.5 hours where we run drills practicing boat speed, boat handling, starts, and implementing racing strategies. We practice on the water in just about any conditions including snow and hail. February and March are particularly fun when we have to chip ice out of the boats and clear snow off the docks as we get ready for practice. Dry land sessions focus either on reviewing film and racing tactics or fitness. Our team emphasizes peak cardio condition, as well as serious strength training in order to be able to compete at the highest level in any given conditions.

Who has had the biggest influence on your sailing career? While my parents have always been waiting on the dock with a thermos of coffee after races in the colder months, I’d have to say my older brother Duncan, who graduated from Cornell’s College of Engineering in 2015, has extensively helped shape my sailing experience. We have been racing competitively together (and against each other) for eight years now, and he has always been the one to challenge me both mentally and physically. I could spend hours picking his brain on tactics and the intricacies of racing rules, and he will still constantly make me lift/run/bike/you name it on Monday mornings after a tough weekend.

What are the traits, physically and mentally, that a successful sailor needs to have? With so many facets of competition, sailing is one of the most frustrating, and conversely the most rewarding, sports. One of the keys to being a successful college sailor is consistency; long days of racing can be exhausting, but the teams that are able to succeed are the ones that are able to keep their focus for each and every race and minimize the number of mistakes that occur throughout the weekend. Very rarely can a sailor be repetitively successful by possessing just one skill (fitness, tactical smarts, good boathandling); the most consistently successful collegiate racers are physically strong, smart, and mentally tough.

If you weren’t a sailor, what sport would you play? I swam competitively for a few years in high school and I’ve taken up intramural inner tube water polo since my time at Cornell. Both my parents were collegiate rowers, and I’m often mistaken for a rower because of how tall I am. Apparently any sport to do with the water!

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