Despite fluky conditions, the sailing team managed to do well at an extremely critical race this past weekend.
This weekend, the Bulldogs competed at the Fowle Trophy, hosted by Harvard. Their second-place finish at the New England qualifier gave them a berth at the National Team Racing championships to be held a month from now.
“It’s frustrating that we didn’t sail our best and outperform our competitors by a mile like we wanted to,” captain Zach Brown ’08 said. “We still qualified, and it showed that even when we’re not sailing well, we can still beat other teams.”
The 12 programs in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association sent their top teams to this weekend’s regatta, but the race came down to Dartmouth, Harvard, Boston College and Yale. Although the Elis were leading after the first day, it was not by a large margin, and throughout the entire two-day regatta, the four teams stayed within striking distance of each other.
The majority of the Bulldogs’ difficulties stemmed from the unfavorable sailing conditions. Brown described the light and extremely variable winds on flat waters as “the least optimal conditions for our success.” Because of the fluky conditions, the Bulldogs did not have as big an advantage in speed and boat handling as usual, and this allowed the other teams to get ahead in some races.
“The conditions made it difficult for us to completely outperform the others — they were definitely Charles River conditions, which gave Dartmouth and Harvard an advantage because they practice in those conditions,” Brown said. “But in a way, it was good because even though it was their conditions, we still beat them or were close to beating them.”
The shifty wind also made it difficult for the Bulldogs to predict when it would change directions, occasionally giving the other teams too much leverage.
“We were sailing a little bit too aggressively at times and taking risks that would normally be justified, but in the fluky conditions, they were just too risky,” Phil Stemler ’07 said. “In some races, we let the other teams get a little bit of leverage, and with the wind dying and then coming back, we ended up letting those guys get too much distance on us.”
The most important accomplishment of the weekend was that the team qualified for Nationals, which will be hosted by Navy. The conditions at Annapolis will be very different from the ones the Elis faced this weekend, giving them the opportunity to maximize their speed and boat-handling skills.
“Between now and then, we’re going to have more time to work on being better as a team,” Thomas Barrows ’10 said. “Individually, we’re really good, but collectively, we can still mesh a lot better.”
With this weekend’s race behind them, the next team racing event for the Bulldogs will be Nationals on May 29. Going into their biggest race of the season, the team will be bringing a stellar record along with them.
“We’ve had a great streak of success — we’ve won every team race that we entered, except for this weekend really, and we’ve been in the top three for every fleet race,” Stemler said. “That’s a pretty strong indication that we’ve got the boat speed and the savvy to compete at the top level. We’ve been getting better and winning, which is always a good combination.”