Lihan ’10 and Elis excel around region

It was a weekend of extremes for the sailing teams.

Strong winds and a wide range of results made for an exciting two days for both the No. 7 co-ed sailing team and the No. 4 women’s sailing team. The weekend presented the Bulldogs with a slew of key competitions, including the New England Sloop Champs at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the New England Women’s Singlehanded Champs at Yale, the Hood Trophy at Tufts University, and the Southern Series III at Salve Regina. Both the New England Sloop Champs and the New England Women’s Singlehanded Champs were high pressure events, with the prospect of qualifying for nationals looming. And in both competitions, participating Yalies achieved a number of noteworthy victories despite several challenges that arose. The Elis took third in the New England Sloops, and the women’s team swept the top three places in the New England Singlehanded Champs.

In the New England Sloop, Yale took third behind the teams from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and Roger Williams. Phil Stemler ’07, skippering a Colgate 26, said it was definitely not lack of experience that prevented the team from achieving either first or second place and that enticing spot at Nationals. Finishing in the top two qualifies a team for the National Regatta.

“[We have] a lot of experience,” Stemler said. “We had as good a chance to win as anyone.”

Unfortunately, Stemler said, the team could not follow Saturday’s successful second-place finish after six races governed by what Stemler termed as “good race management” with a similar show for the four races on Sunday. A false start landed the Elis in last place in the first race, and another start in the second race that left much to be desired resulted in ninth place for the team. Even success in the final two races, Stemler said, could not remedy the early blunders.

The team was especially motivated by a desire to help co-ed team captain Matt Barry ’07 qualify for Nationals, Stemler said. Despite the lack of a tangible reward, and the failure to achieve for Barry a chance to participate in Nationals, Stemler said the event still offered the team a rewarding experience.

“We didn’t make it, but we had a great time,” he said. “It was a great experience for the top skippers on the team.”

Sarah Lihan ’10 and Jane Macky ’09 of the women’s team expressed a similar positivity regarding the New England Women’s Singlehanded Champs, but for them, Nationals is not something to be hoped for, but rather a reality for which to begin training. Yale, up against numerous schools including Dartmouth, Harvard and Tufts, swept first through third place. Lihan came in first, captain Emily Hill ’07 took second, and Macky nabbed third place.

“[It’s] neat the way we finished,” Macky said. “I look forward to training for Nationals.”

But the journey to such a sweeping victory was not without its difficulties. Both the New England Sloop and the Singlehanded Champs required a type of racing in which most Bulldogs do not normally participate. The New England Sloops forced sailors to abandon the smaller dinghies for larger sloops and Singlehandeds required single-handed boats rather than the more familiar double-handed craft. Specifically for Lihan, the compressed time of the college races contrasted with the rather lengthy international races to which she is more accustomed. Nevertheless, a combination of confidence and years of training prepared Lihan for this adjustment.

“I came in with a bit of confidence, hoping I would win,” she said. “I spent the whole summer sailing these kinds of boats, traveling from May to mid-August. It’s been my focus for the past two years.”

Lihan, Macky and Stemler all confirmed that teamwork defined this weekend’s success.

“We all worked together as a team,” Lihan said. “That’s what I’m used to.”

At the Hood Trophy, Thomas Barrows ’10 and crew Adriane Levin ’09 of the A Division and John Kempton ’10 and crew Hannah Oakland ’07 of the B Division earned a disappointing 15th place for Yale. In the Southern Series III, the Elis, including Drausin Wulsin ’07 and Lynn McGregor ’08 of the A Division and Jason Rabinovitch ’08 and Abigail Coplin ’08 of the B Division, earned a fourth-place finish though strong winds ended the competition after the third race.

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