Written by Sam Burns ’13
As the Bowdoin women’s varsity four rowed up to the start line in Philadelphia at the Dad Vail Regatta, the officials seemed unsure of how to pronounce Bowdoin, despite the fact that the Bowdoin women’s team has medaled in this event five years in a row.
Bowdoin raced four boats at Dad Vail the weekend of May 11-12 and all of them reached the semifinals, putting them in the top third of competitors at the regatta. Bowdoin is small compared to many of the schools at the regatta, and rowing is a tiny program within the College.
Even though the starters called “Buhdoyne” to the line, none of that mattered as seconds later the crew of Mary Bryan (MB) Barksdale ’15, Catherine Yochum ’15, Courtney Payne ’15, Sam Burns ’13 and coxswain Bonnie Cao ’13 were off to a fast race that earned them gold at the largest intercollegiate rowing event in the United States.
The Dad Vail is at an event that brings hundreds of crews from North American colleges and universities, and the women competed in the DII/DIII division against schools from across the country. The women’s team rowed the 2,000-meter sprint course in 7:33, winning the race by six seconds despite rough conditions. Their time would have put them only three seconds off the first-place winner from the DI division race and ahead of all the other DI boats.
The victory at Dad Vail caps an incredible spring sprint season for Bowdoin Rowing. The weekend before Dad Vail, the entire women’s team swept the New England Championships’ fours events — all boats came in first in their event, including novice women, second varsity women and the varsity women who won their event by the largest margin in 20 years on that course. The varsity men’s team also won gold and the novice men brought home the bronze medal.
While the spring sprint season is always a highlight of this two-season sport, the team had a stellar fall season as well. The women’s varsity four was the first boat in Bowdoin history to win the collegiate fours event at the Head of the Charles, a 5k racecourse in Boston and the largest two-day regatta in the world.
After a year like that for the crew team, no one should be forgetting the name Bowdoin.