First all-girl teen crew competes in regatta

August 21, 2014
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The Eugenia crew includes Kate Gagnon, skipper Maggie Guter, Gabrielle Gentz and Hannah Milkie.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

PENTWATER — A lot of firsts are taking place during this week’s National Ensign Championship Regatta.

It is the first time in the event’s 53-year history that Pentwater has hosted the national event, and it is the first time that a crew comprised of four teenage girls is competing.

The crew of the sailboat Eugenia from Marquette includes four girls ages 15-17 including skipper Maggie Guter, Gabrielle Gentz, Kate Gagnon and Hannah Milkie. They are the youngest and first-ever all female crew to compete in the four-day sailing competition.

“We’re double underdogs,” said Hannah.

The foursome, who are all good friends, attend high school in Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. They all went to sailing school and have been sailing since they were young kids. The young crew is the only boat entered in the youth division, which includes sailors age 25 and younger, said Pentwater Yacht Club Commodore Marsha LaHaye. There are 43 boats from all over the country competing. All boats are 22 ½ feet long and have the same design. “Every boat is the same,” LeHaye said. The regatta 1competition on Lake Michigan features 10 races over a four-day period, she said. Every boat has a skipper or helmsman and three other sailors.

Crews from all over the country are competing, said Chris Conroy, social events  chairperson. There are crews from Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. A dozen crews are from Pentwater, LeHaye said.

“My husband I were instrumental in getting it here,” said LeHaye of the national event. Her husband Michael is the event chairman.

The boat Eugenia is owned by Gabrielle’s family, and it got its name from her family. “Eugenia is Gabe’s middle name,” said her mother, Karen Larson. “It’s an old family name. It’s her grandmother’s middle name.”

The Eugenia crew is serious about sailing, but they enjoy having fun too. “There is a lot of strategy and physical work involved,” Maggie said. “But we’re always smiling,” said Kate.

Things can get a little stressful out on the open water, but at the end of the day they are all good friends. “We all still like each other … kind of,” Hannah joked.

regatta 2All four girls compete in several other sports besides sailing, and they said they enjoy the unpredictability of sailing due to weather conditions.

The young crew, which included three of the current four members, took first place at nationals last year.

There are some challenges to being a young, all-girl crew. “We don’t have as much experience,” Maggie said. “Most of these men have been sailing for 40 years.”

Also, their smaller size creates a challenge in “weighing the boat down,” Gabrielle said. However, regatta 3they feel that since they are girls, their advantage over the men is that they communicate more, Gabrielle said.

The crew hopes to inspire more young sailors and female sailors to take up the sport.

The regatta also includes two three-generation crews — the Sligh family of Holland ranging in age from 8 to 88 years of age and the Frisinger family of Muskegon ranging in age from 11 to 84 years.

Ensign Fleet 70 of Pentwater, in conjunction with the Pentwater Yacht Club, are the regatta hosts. Racing wraps up today with an awards banquet at the yacht club.

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