After almost three years of sailing together, Isabelle Kinsolving ’01 and Katie McDowell have at last won the right to represent the United States in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The pair, who formally announced their Olympic Campaign in mid-2001, clinched the berth by dominating at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Houston, Texas, which began Nov. 6 and ended Sunday. They finished first in seven races, securing such a lead that their victory was assured before the end of the trials — they did not even have to sail the final race.
McDowell, a 1998 Brown graduate, skippers for the team. Kinsolving, who served as an assistant coach for the Yale team in fall 2002, crews. The pair will compete in Athens as long as the United States, as a nation, qualifies for the Olympics in the women’s 470 class by finishing well in the upcoming World Championships.
Women’s captain Jenn Hoyle ’05 said the whole Yale sailing team is thrilled by McDowell and Kinsolving’s victory.
“Isabelle is a teammate of ours,” Hoyle said. “To have someone you physically sailed with win the trials and have a chance to go to the Olympics is just incredible. The whole team has been behind them the whole way.”
Although their domination of the event was unexpected, McDowell and Kinsolving had long been seen as favorites to go to the Olympics. The duo finished first in the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta last year and fifth internationally in the pre-Olympics in Athens earlier this year.
Molly Carapiet ’06 said she has great confidence in the strength of the McDowell-Kinsolving team.
“I always thought that they had the ability to qualify,” Carapiet said. “I’m very happy for them that they did.”
Other Bulldog sailors, including Carapiet (with crew 2003 Brown graduate Whitney Beese), Stu McNay ’05 and Arthur Kinsolving ’03, sailed in the 470 class at the trials.
Carapiet and Beese sailed six of the 16 races before heading back so Carapiet could sail for the Bulldogs in the Women’s Atlantic Coast Championships, held this weekend at Old Dominion University in Virginia. Yale finished fourth of 16 at the regatta.
Carapiet said that despite sailing only six races and finishing in the top five only twice, she and Beese learned valuable lessons at the trials.
“It was a really good experience to see how high the level of racing is and how much we have to learn,” Carapiet said. “But we learned a lot by sailing there.”
McNay and crew Arthur Kinsolving tied for fourth in a regatta dominated by the ultra-experienced Paul Foerster, a three-time Olympian and two-time silver medalist, and crew Kevin Burnham.
While McDowell and Isabelle Kinsolving could afford to sit out the last race, Foerster and Burnham did not sail in their last three and still won by a comfortable margin, finishing first in all but two of the races they did sail.
The competition for the next four spots in the men’s 470s, however, was intense — McNay and Arthur Kinsolving were competitive during the whole regatta, finally finishing tied for points with the fourth-place squad and only three points out of second.
Carapiet said McNay and Arthur Kinsolving showed great promise.
“I think Paul Foerster and Kevin Burnham were way above everyone else because of all their experience, but the rest of the fleet was really close,” Carapiet said. “[McNay] and Arthur really improved throughout the regatta.”
McNay said he and Arthur Kinsolving were happy with their performance.
“We are quite pleased with how we sailed,” McNay said. “Arthur and I began sailing together as a team only five months ago, and together we’ve come a long, long way.”
McNay said he and Arthur Kinsolving were considering sticking together for a 2008 Olympic campaign and are planning to sail 470s in Europe this spring before McNay returns to Yale for his senior year in fall 2004.
McNay added that he learned an Olympic campaign was extremely difficult to conduct, and that U.S. Sailing — the governing body of Olympic sailing in the United States — did little to help fledgling campaigns, regardless of sailors’ talent or previous results. Instead, McNay said it was their local yacht clubs and the Yale sailing community that he and Arthur Kinsolving relied on for support.
“U.S. Sailing will not lay out a carpet for you,” McNay said. “It was the members of the Yale sailing team, Yale sailing coach Zack Leonard, and the people at our yacht clubs who have all given us all the positive support and encouragement that has brought us along this past year.”
Hoyle said the presence of Bulldog sailors past and present in the Olympics and Olympic trials was a testament to the strength of the program.
“It’s great for the Yale sailing team that we have Yale graduates and undergrads from the team going to Olympic trial events,” Hoyle said. “It shows how well [coach Leonard] and [assistant coach Bill Healy] prepare us. It only strengthens our team.”