Awarded as the Rolex Yachtswomen of the Year in the United States in 2018, the first years Carmen and Emma Cowles ’25 are set to make a splash in the world of varsity sailing.
Courtesy of Carmen and Emma Cowles
Instead of participating in more mainstream sports like soccer or basketball, identical twins Carmen and Emma Cowles ’25 turned to the water.
The Cowles twins are from Larchmont, New York, a small town on Long Island Sound, and their parents wanted them to kiss the nearby water in any way they could. At the age of 9, the sisters began sailing in their local yacht club in the Optimist class of boats, a small one-handed dinghy used by children. As they learned the ropes, they began to participate in regional, national and, eventually, international competitions.
This fall, the twins begin as early years competing for Yale’s sailing program.
“We’ve both grown to really love the competitive aspect of the sport,” Carmen and Emma Cowles wrote to The News in a joint statement. “Having a twin to compete with and against helped us improve very quickly. “
While they have spent years racing on the same boat, the Cowles sisters are both skipper for the Bulldogs this season, so they will be working on separate boats. Last weekend, the sisters made their first home meet at Yale at the Harry Anderson Trophy, where they took turns to skipper on Yale’s second boat. Together they placed fifth out of 18 teams.
But long before they started sailing for the Elis, the Cowles twins laid the foundations for sailing with the “Opti”. As they got off the beginner’s boat, the two moved up to the International 420 double-handed class of boats – Carmen became the skipper, while Emma, who is slightly taller, took the crew role.
They noted that by sailing together on the same boat, their parents did not need to maintain two boats or juggle two sailing schedules. To help stand out on the water, Carmen started wearing a red hat, while Emma started wearing a black one. The colors stuck.
The teamwork and chemistry of the sisters on the water certainly paid off as they won the 2017 and 2018 420 Girls Junior Sailing World Championships. Their talent in these events paved the way for their victory in 2018 US Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, the first time the honor has been given to a pair since 2004. The Cowles are also the second youngest to win the award.
“One of the strengths Carmen and Emma have is their ability to learn from their mistakes,” Cowles coach Steve Keen told Sailing World in 2019 as they sailed I-420 boats.
While they have spent their entire careers sailing together, they were ready to compete for separate schools when they began to consider college sailing options.
“We both agreed that we were indifferent to whether [or not] we went to the same school, ”they told the News. “We both wanted to be part of a competitive sailing team in college, which narrowed the list.”
As one of 36 fully-funded college sailing programs in the country, the Yale team has sparked the twins’ interest due to the liberal arts aspect of the college.
When the couple applied to Yale, they had always planned to take a year off between high school and college, meaning they would have started in New Haven in the class of 2024. However, they took a second year. sabbatical due to the postponement of Tokyo. Olympic Games. Sailing as a team at the US Olympic Trials earlier this year, they placed second. Only the best team qualifies for the Olympic Games.
Due to the pandemic, the sisters had to adapt their practice routine to minimize the risk of travel. Between spring 2020 and early 2021, Emma and Carmen trained in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and Vilamoura, Portugal, spending a few months in each location.
Because many international competitions were canceled due to COVID-19, it was difficult for the twins to compare themselves to their opponents.
“We also traveled less for training camps,” they admitted. “[This] has actually been found to help us be very productive in our training and ultimately expose our learning curve.
Now based in New Haven – Carmen is at Silliman College, while Emma is in Trumbull – Emma noted that she liked the competitiveness of Yale’s sailing program, which makes practice scrums more fun. Meanwhile, Carmen enjoys learning from the different sailors on the team.
Yale’s sailing program competes in five tournaments this weekend: the New England Men’s Single-handed Championship, the Barnett Trophy, the Regis Women’s Trophy, the Hatch Brown Trophy and a Tufts Invite.