SAILING | Elis prepare for spring down south

It was a busy break for the Eli sailors as they split their time between conference racing and practice.

Thomas Barrows ’10, Mike Hession ’10, Sarah Lihan ’10, Marla Menninger ’10, Blair Belling ’11, Liz Brim ’11 and Joe Morris ’12 represented the Elis in various regattas on the Atlantic Coast that count toward the team’s ranking, while other sailors competed in secondary events.

Twenty-eight Yale sailors spent their break in Charleston, S.C., where they trained together as a team for the first time since the fall. Most of the practice focused on team racing, the style of racing preferred in spring regattas, as opposed to the fleet races that dominate the fall season. The Elis faced a variety of weather conditions and were able to race against sailors from College of Charleston and Georgetown in preparation for the continuation spring season, which began on Feb. 13.

“It was really valuable to have three competitive boats for our cup race,” Barrows said of the final practice regatta against Georgetown and C of C.

The first test of Yale’s preparation was at the St. Mary’s Team Race Intersectional on March 13-14 in St. Mary’s, Md. The team arrived in St. Mary’s early for a few days of practice, which Barrows said provided perfect training opportunities for the Bulldogs, and particularly some skippers new to team racing. Boats raced against both St. Mary’s and Harvard, teams players said have very strong team-racing contingencies.

During actual competition, the Bulldogs struggled with a lack of wind. Over the course of the weekend, the weather only allowed for the completion of one round-robin. By the end of the weekend, Yale beat out College of Charleston, Roger Williams, U.S. Naval Academy and Vermont.

Morris, Barrows, Hession, Lihan, Menninger, Belling and Brim represented the Bulldogs over the weekend in both FJs and 420s.

“It’s starting to really come together — the three skippers and their crews — to have a quality team race team,” Belling said.

In their final event of the break, the Bulldogs returned to Annapolis, Md., for the Truxton Umstead Interesectional on March 20-21. This event is one of the largest fleet races of the spring season, and is considered a precursor to the ICSA semifinals and ICSA/Gill Dingy National Championship.

This year, the Elis took fifth at “the Trux,” a four-division event featuring 420, FJ, Laser Standard and Laser Radial races.

In the A and B divisions, sailors manned traditional double-handed vessels, with one group manning the 420s and the other in FJs. On the second day of racing, the divisions switched boat fleets. In the Laser divisions, the event used a trapezoidal course.

“The course was pretty one dimensional,” Barrows said. “One side of the course was favored, so it was about executing off the starting line and getting to the favored side, which we did well.”

The spring break weather trend of soft winds continued later on in the event, and racing was postponed on Saturday morning. Only six races were sailed per division for the day. The pairs of Barrows and Belling and Morris and Menninger each took first place for the weekend in the A and B divisions, respectively. John Vrolyk ’10 finished 18th in the Laser Standard division, and Claire Dennis ’13 placed third in the Laser Radial.

This week also marks the expected opening of the McNay Family Sailing Center in Branford, Conn., for the season as sailors plan to put in the docks at the Short Beach facility.

“We’re really excited about getting back on the water and holding regular practice,” Belling said. “I’m really excited about how hard everyone worked over spring break — it will jump start our season.”

The next phase of the season is the Ivy League Championships at Brown on March 27 and 28.

“I think that the big competition will be Brown, Harvard and possibly Dartmouth,” Morris said. “But we were able to win last year and are hoping to repeat that.”

Next weekend, the Elis will race in the Ivy League Championship at Brown and the Roger Williams Team Race Invitational in Newport, R.I. Sailing begins Saturday at 9 a.m.

Correction: March 23, 2010

An earlier version of this article misidentified the graduation years of Liz Brim ’11 and Marla Menninger ’10.

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