Queen’s Sailing wins national championship

Members of the Queen’s Sailing Team compete at the 2023 Queen’s Spring Fleet Race Invitational, which was held April 9 to 10, 2023, at the Kingston Yacht Club. Photo via Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association

This past week, the Queen’s University Sailing Team secured a national title, as the group competed in the final event of the 2022-23 Canadian Intercollegiate Sailing Association (CICSA) season. Racing on the familiar waters of Lake Ontario, in front of the team’s home at the Kingston Yacht Club (KYC), Queen’s Sailing placed first and second overall in the inaugural Queen’s Spring Fleet Race Invitational, securing the school the necessary points to win the season-long championship. 

With two teams on the water, the Queen’s 1 fleet with Julian van den Driessche (A Skipper), Samantha Mastel-Marr (A Crew), Julian Hill (B Skipper), and Lucia Pendolino (B Crew), placed first overall in the race, scoring 45 points on the day. The school’s second fleet, Queen’s 2, finished the race in second place, with 78 total points. 

With a solid performance at home, Queen’s Sailing fished the 2022-23 CICSA season atop the standings, with 40.3 points, securing the team a national championship. “It’s great, I’m super ecstatic… It was everything I dreamed of,” said A Skipper Julian van den Driessche, when asked what the win meant to him. “I’ve seen the trophies and pictures… I was at a race [recently] in Montreal and McGill had the trophy last year, so I saw it up in their house and I was like ‘Man, I need that this year.’” 

Queen’s finished ahead of rivals Dalhousie and McGill, who placed second and third respectively in the year-end standings. The CICSA season title is the latest national championship won by the school’s sailing team after the squad took home victory at the 2022 Fleet Racing National Championship in Montreal last fall. 

According to van den Driessche, Queen’s Sailing came into the 2022-23 season following a rebuild the season prior. “When I joined the team last year, we were sort of at a rebuilding stage, as most of our team members had graduated… Everyone was a rookie, and everyone was learning the boat. It was a tough year.” 

However, with a dominant 2022-23 season, capped by a national championship, Queen’s Sailing appears to have found the winning formula. “This season was one of the strongest Queen’s has had… We had one of our strongest skippers, Gaelen Richardson, come back, and, every event I went to, I won my division. We had a couple of hiccups where we came in second, but it was a super dominant year for Queen’s.”

Last weekend’s race marked the team’s second competition in Kingston after Queen’s opened the season with a win at the Can/Am Dinghy Championship back in September. Van den Driessche spoke highly of the opportunity Queen’s athletes have to train and compete in Kingston, one of the top freshwater sailing locations in the world.  

“I love racing in Kingston, and I love having the home turf advantage. It’s great because they don’t have to really do any changes, I don’t have to test and see if there’s a current, I’m super confident, I know the pressure’s going to come down from the same spot and I’m going to follow the same strategy as when I’ve raced here before.” 

Competing out of Kingston also gives members of the Queen’s Sailing Team the opportunity to work with coaches at KYC — some of whom are even former Olympic athletes — as well as other community supporters. 

“We have support from KYC and they’re super helpful and gracious,” van den Driessche expressed. “We have awesome coaches, like OIympian Danny Boyd, and we have all this support from our sponsors and it helps the team go. Without those guys, it’s hard to have the Queen’s Sailing Team.” 

With the 2022-23 university season now in the books, van den Driessche and the rest of his teammates are currently in the middle of a busy spring exam season. This summer, the economics student plans to travel to Europe before returning to Queen’s for his fourth year in the fall. 

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