URI student, Turkish national team member competes in U.S. women’s single-handed collegiate sailing championship

Okyanus Arikan finishes 6th out of 18 competitors

KINGSTON, R.I. — Dec. 6,  2023 — Okyanus Arikan, a University of Rhode Island sophomore kinesiology major who has sailed for Turkey’s Olympic team, competed in the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s national championship regatta at Tulane University Nov. 11 and 12. Arikan finished 6th out of 18 competitors in the women’s single-handed race.

“It was a great experience for me. It was my first nationals in the United States in the International Laser Class Association 6 class. It was my first time at Tulane.” said Arikan. “There were 18 sailors. We did 14 races in very light and shifty wind conditions so the difficulty level was high. Even through these difficult conditions, I managed to finish in first place in four races. This led me to stay at the top of the fleet.”

“I do believe Okyanus can bring a national title in college single-handed sailing,” said URI interim head sailing coach Joakim Karlsen. “Before the last two races in this year’s competition we were only six points out of the top position. Six other teams were as well. This was her first single-handed nationals, so I am confident that we can see Okyanus back in a position to fight for a national title.”

How does a teenager from Turkey wind up at URI and represent the University in the college national sailing championships?

“I was searching schools in the U.S., and I found URI over the internet. I was searching for sailing and kinesiology programs. My parents were really supportive and wanted me to do this and sail in the U.S.,” said Arikan, who also competes for Turkey’s national team. “In Turkey, sailing is not that popular.”

URI sailing club team member Okyanus Arikan proudly wears her Rhody sailing gear. Photo courtesy of Okyanus Arikan 

In Turkey, while working on maintaining her fitness, she is able to focus more on sailing, versus here in the U.S., where she focuses more on fitness.

“Competing for Turkey is a job, but competing for the URI team is fun.” said Arikan. The racing format is different in college sailing. The race course is much smaller than what I am used to.” 

To qualify for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association national competition, sailors had to finish in a specific place in the qualifying race that took place at Brown University. Arikan did just that, finishing third overall. Each sailing race course is different. Arikan has sailed on the Providence River in Cranston, the Salt Pond in Narragansett and South Kingstown, Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans, all over Turkey and in other countries. In sailing, time is not the determining factor in qualifying for a national competition, what matters is where you finish in the race. 

In the national competition, Arikan competed against sailors from Georgetown University, Tulane, Brown, Jacksonville, Cornell, Wisconsin, Washington, Old Dominion, the U.S. Naval Academy, Dartmouth College and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

“Having Okyanus on our singlehanded team is great,” Karlsen said. “She has performed on the biggest stage in sailing at the Olympics, and it is truly inspiring to have someone like that on the team. She brings a level of professionalism with her experience that is great to have at single-handed national championships. We only need to focus on performance. She is so dialed into her routine that everything runs so smoothly. That gives more time to work on what is essential and for her to perform to the best of her abilities.” 

“I want to continue sailing after I graduate from URI,” Arikan said. “I have a deep passion and love for the sport, and tremendous support from my family and friends. “My dream is to compete in national competitions and the Olympics for many years to come.” 

The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) is the governing authority for sailing competition at colleges and universities throughout the United States and in some parts of Canada. There are seven conferences that schedule and administer regattas within their established geographic regions.

Benjamin Smith, a senior sports media and public relations major at the University of Rhode Island and an intern in the Department of Communications and Marketing, wrote this press release.