For the first time in its history, the Georgetown sailing team returned to the Hilltop on Sunday evening hoisting the Janet Lutz Trophy, marking freshman Haddon Hughes’ victory at the Inter-collegiate Sailing Association Women’s Singlehanded National Championship.
Hughes captured a national championship that has eluded Georgetown since the regatta was established in 1995.
Hughes’ victory comes less than one month after she won the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s Singlehanded Championships — a regional competition used to qualify for nationals — for the first time in the sailing program’s history.
Hughes beat out 18 top sailors from around the country, including Brown University sophomore Lindsay Baab, who finished two points behind Hughes and earned second place for the second consecutive year.
“It’s such a cool experience and it’s awesome that I can do it in my first year here,” Hughes said. “I feel like I’m really proud to be a part of the team and to represent the team in this way.”
The two-day competition, hosted by Old Dominion from Nov. 7 to 8 in Norfolk, Va., included 11 races, three of which took place Saturday.
Light wind, clocking in at 3.5 miles per hour — the minimum speed needed for a race — put Hughes at a speed disadvantage at the beginning of the regatta. Hughes earned two eighth-place finishes and a fourth-place finish to cap the first day of racing, leaving her in sixth place after the first three races.
Going into Sunday, Hughes knew she needed to catch up with her competitors and prevent the results from the first day of the regatta from negatively affecting her throughout the remaining races.
“Going into the final races, I just think it was important for me to keep a steady head and not get too freaked out,” Hughes said. “I’ve been in high-pressure situations, so I felt confident about handling it.”
With winds blowing up to 16 miles per hour Sunday, Hughes regained her rhythm and earned the top spots in the first seven races. Her victory after the sixth race of the day gave her the lead for the first time all weekend and put her one point ahead of Baab, her primary competitor.
By the time Hughes went into her final race, three points separated her from Baab but she only needed to finish within two spots of her Ivy League competitor to clinch the victory. Baab finished in second place in the last course and Hughes followed behind her in third place, giving Hughes a two-point edge over Baab and, consequently, the national title.
“I think it’s a fantastic accomplishment for her as a freshman. It’s very rare for a freshman to be this good and for her to handle the pressure of the regatta,” Head Coach Michael Callahan said. “She was behind the first day and basically had to be perfect the second day, and that was what she was.”
Sophomore Lola Bushnell, who placed in fifth in nationals last year and earned Georgetown’s highest finish at that national championship, fell to ninth place this year. Bushnell experienced a rough start to Sunday’s courses when she was forced to restart the race, which set the tone for Bushnell’s remaining races.
“I think that affected her where she just got down on herself,” Callahan said. “She just wasn’t able to kind of put together races where she was in first, races where she was in second. She didn’t have the boat-speed advantage that she normally would.”
Senior Nevin Snow represented the Georgetown men’s sailing team at the ICSA Men’s Singlehanded Championship and finished in eighth place. Unlike Hughes, who benefited from windy conditions Sunday, the breeze disadvantaged Snow, though the senior recovered with a second-place finish in the last race of the weekend.
With two of the Hoyas’ six national championships behind them, Georgetown will look to capture its next title at the ICSA Match Racing National Championship the weekend of Nov. 20 in Charleston, S.C.
Until then, the Hoyas will be content with a special victory 20 years in the making.
“I think for the program itself, it’s a championship we haven’t won and the best we’ve done is fifth, which was last year, so it’s something that we certainly wanted to win.” Callahan said. “I think it marks a momentous occasion for us to have your women’s team start to win national championships.”
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