Fair winds and following seas for Dartmouth High sailing team

May 25, 2019

Co-captain of the Dartmouth High sailing team Grace Woodcock has every reason to be proud.

Her team just finished another hugely successful season this week, pulling 15 wins and only 5 losses.

This comes after an excellent previous season, which saw the team hold the sixth spot in New England — and number one for public schools.

But Woodcock wasn’t always a competitive sailor.

She said that although she grew up leisure sailing with her family on their boat, she hated racing as a youngster.

“I was never really a fan of it. I actually hated it...when I was younger, it scared me to death,” she said with a laugh.

Smaller children often dislike sailing in the child-sized racing boats. “Some little kids just really really don’t like it,” Woodcock admitted.

But she eventually warmed to it, and started sailing competitively at the age of 12 or 13.

“I like that it’s a sport that’s not just about athletic ability — it’s half athletics, and then half kind of like a brain sport,” she said. “Because there’s a lot of things you need to learn.”

So what’s the key to the team’s recent success?

In her sophomore year, Woodcock said, the team lost a lot of seniors.

But coaches Chris Murray, Chris Fletcher, and Peter Van Colen — with the co-captains’ help — focused on rebuilding.

“It was hard to get back up to the top. So the past two years have been kind of like rebuilding our team,” Woodcock explained.

That seems to have paid off, as the last two seasons have proven — and, importantly, with a group of diverse ages, the team is likely to continue its success into the future.

“It’s nice to have a varsity team that’s not just all seniors. I think we built a good core, so that each year we’re only going to lose a couple kids,” she said.

She also cites the friendships the team built as another reason for their success.

“We all got really, really close as a team. And that definitely helped out going to practices every day — even when it was raining, it was nice to know I was just going to have fun either way.”

Woodcock added that the friendships she’s made on the team are the most important part of the experience. “It’s what gets me to practice every day,” she admitted.

She is also proud of the fact that this year, two Dartmouth boats beat Tabor Academy during a meet in their best-ever result against a group that usually blows the competition out of the water.

But the success is bittersweet, as Woodcock will be graduating in June. She says that she’ll miss her friends on the team.

One of her most memorable moments from this last season was winning the Cape and Islands Womens’ Championship outright with her crew, fellow Dartmouth High co-captain Sadie Thomas.

“It was memorable because Sadie and I — our goal was to win that event. It was our last time ever sailing together. We’ve been sailing together for a long time. We pretty much do everything together, actually,” she said with a laugh.

Thomas is going to be sailing at URI next June, and Woodcock plans to continue sailing at Roger Williams University next year.

“So I’m probably never going to sail with her again,” said Woodcock. “It was just our last time ever racing together.”

But with such well-established sailing skills, Woodcock and her teammates are sure to make waves wherever they go.