This weekend, there won’t be any men racing on the Montlake Cut. Instead, only the Washington women’s crew will take on Cal.
Usually the men and women compete in the Cal Dual on the same day, but the women needed another nonconference competition under their belts last week when the Cal men visited the Montlake Cut. That opened up an opportunity for a day centered on women’s rowing.
After the UW women race Cal, youth and masters races will take place at the Montlake Cut. Fourteen Seattle area rowing clubs are participating in the She Will Win regatta.
“Coach [Yasmin] Farooq decided that since we were already shutting the Cut down to run races, we should open the race up to the community and turn the race in to a celebration of female empowerment in sport regardless of age or ability,” Sarah Keller, UW rowing’s director of operations, said in an email.
The women’s crew has partnered with She Will Win, a company co-founded by Karlé Pittsinger, the captain of the team last season. The company sells shirts and stickers with the proceeds benefiting girls youth sports. All the proceeds from shirts sold at the regatta will go to local youth rowing clubs, either for equipment or travel expenses.
She Will Win’s goal is to level the playing field between men’s and women’s sports, so its mission fit in well with head coach Farooq’s goal to turn the Cal Dual into a celebration of female empowerment.
“The goal of this regatta is to highlight the history of UW rowing,” Pittsinger said. “It’s not about us — we want to sell as many shirts as we can to raise money — but I think I just want to get the conversation started with regards to programs at UW that have changed over time, for the better.”
The Cal Dual — the rivalry that started this regatta — began in 1903, the same year women’s rowing started at the UW. But women didn’t participate in the rivalry until over 70 years later, in the wake of Title IX.
Women’s rowing lost support in 1917, after war efforts disrupted athletics at the UW, and it didn’t return until 1969. It became a varsity sport in 1975, and the UW women’s crew competed in the Cal Dual in 1977.
Forty-two years later, Washington’s crew teams are on an equal playing field, each one of the top teams in the country.
“With this regatta it’s really a mindset of what is happening on the Montlake Cut is pretty unique, and it’s pretty unique that two national championship caliber teams are working as hard equally in their own right in the boathouse,” Pittsinger said. “This is such a great example to the world of: this can happen. Let’s make it happen for everyone.”
The She Will Win regatta is aimed at spreading this mindset to the women’s rowing teams they’ve invited to race, especially the youth rowers that the Tt-shirt sales will benefit.
While the money will go to concrete causes this year, in the future, Pittsinger wants to create a scholarship for a youth rower who isn’t able to row with a club due to the high cost of the sport.
When it comes to rowing, however, she wants to focus on how far the UW has come.
“There’s been so many amazing women over time in this program standing up, sometimes verbally, but sometimes just quietly just plugging away toward a more equitable space, and I think in a way that speaks so much louder,” Pittsinger said.
Reach Engagement Editor Hailey Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @haileyarobin
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