Each year, Quantum Sail Design Group presents the Women’s Collegiate Sailor of the Year Award to a female sailor who has performed at the highest level of competition in district and national championships. This year the ICSA Selection Committee and Quantum representatives recognized Yale senior Morgan Kiss, who also won her first national championship this year. We spoke with Morgan to find out how it feels to be the champion and sailor of the year.
You just won the 2015 Sperry ISCA Women’s National Championship. How does it feel? It was a pretty exhausting event. We got 18 races off, but it was pretty windy. Still, it went really great – it was a big team effort. It was really amazing to experience that with my teammates and coaches for the past four years, Zach Leonard and Bill Healy.
On top of the national championship, you received Quantum’s Women’s Collegiate Sailor of the Year award. How does it feel to be recognized as sailor of the year? After four years of college sailing, recognizing that the level of women’s sailing has risen so much, it was a great honor to win the award, especially with such talented finalists. Being able to compete against them throughout my career has been a great time, and it has really challenged me.
When did you originally start sailing? When I was 10 years old, on Lake Michigan out of Macatawa Yacht Club. It was a really great experience because it was a family sport. I grew up sailing with my older sister and young brother. It was fun spending my summers sailing with them. I also met some good friends. It was competitive, but it was also a good way to get together with my family and friends.
When did you start sailing competitively? I started sailing when I was 10, but I was 12-13 when I started competing nationally in Optimist. By the time I was 14-15, I was traveling internationally. It was a great experience to meet young sailors from other countries, to see what their cultures were like and to compete against them.
What has your sailing journey been like, going from Optis to competing in college? I transitioned from Optimists to International 420s when I was 16. In college we sail 420. It was a big change going from a one-person dinghy to a two-person dinghy. You have to learn to work with a crew, but in college you’re also with a lot of other teammates. The experience I enjoyed the most was learning to work in that environment and learning how to win and lose as a team.
We had some very young team members this year – Casey Klingler and Claire Huebner are two freshmen who closed the regatta in B-division. I was really proud of them, and proud to be on a team who supports each other and competes at such a high level.
How long have you sailed with your crew? How did she help your performance? I was really fortunate to sail with three different crew in the semifinals and finals. The crew I mainly sailed with was Natalya Doris, and at national finals I sailed with Emily Johnson and Claire Huebner.
They each have taught me so much. To be able to sail with three different, amazing crews was a fantastic experience. They all put all their full effort into each event. I’m really proud of them. Their dedication in practice throughout the year was amazing. I’m proud to have sailed with younger team members and people I know will be leaders for Yale women’s sailing next year.
What have been some personal highlights for you throughout your collegiate years? I’ve been really involved in women’s sailing throughout college. We were close to winning nationals a few times, we came in second in 2012 and 2014, but I’m really proud of our team this year.
It was also a fantastic experience to sail with Marlena Fauer, graduated in 2014. I grew up competing with her in Optimist and competed with her in college. That was really rewarding. She followed closely and was extremely supportive this year as well.
You’ve just finished your collegiate career – do you have any after-college sailing plans? I don’t have any specific, immediate plans, but I’m looking for new opportunities. I’ll be staying on the east coast next year, so I hope to get involved in local circuits, hopefully some Melges racing, which is really competitive and a lot of fun.
Has sailing impacted other areas of your life? How so? Competition is such a good learning experience. Sailing in college teaches you how to work with others and deal with different types of pressure. Working with and learning from coaches and teammates, I have become a much better communicator and have been able to work to build better team spirit. I think that will carry forward and help me for the rest of my life. I think it’s pretty amazing that college sailing gives us the opportunity to do that.
What advice do you have for young women coming into the sport? The best advice I can give would be to never give up. Always remain competitive. There’s so much you can learn from sailing, on and off the water. Get out of it everything you can. Stick with it, even when it’s tough.
Sailing Career Highlights
2007 US Optimist World Team
2007 US Optimist Team Trials – 1st place
2009/2011 US Youth World Team
2010 International 420 Women’s World Championship – 2nd place
2010-2011 US Sailing Olympic Development Team
2011 ISAF Youth World Championship – Silver Medal
2012/13/14 – Collegiate All-American
2012 – Sperry ICSA Women’s National Championship – 2nd place
2014 – Sperry ICSA Women’s National Championship – 2nd place
2014 – Quantum’s Women’s Collegiate Sailor of the Year finalist
2015 – Quantum’s Women’s Collegiate Sailor of the Year winner
2015 – Sperry ISCA Women’s National Championship – 1st place