SAILING | Two Elis qualify for Nationals

Two Bulldog sailors, captain Emily Billing ’13 and Claire Dennis ’13, advanced to ICSA Nationals for the fourth consecutive season.
Two Bulldog sailors, captain Emily Billing ’13 and Claire Dennis ’13, advanced to ICSA Nationals for the fourth consecutive season. Photo by Zeenat Mansoor.

Despite light wind and overcast and rainy conditions, Yale women’s sailors captain Emily Billing ’13 and Claire Dennis ’13 finished in the top five during the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s (ICSA) New England Singlehanded Championship this past weekend. They will advance to ICSA Nationals for the fourth consecutive season.

Eighteen sailors from 12 northeastern schools competed in 13 individual races last Saturday and Sunday during the event, hosted by Connecticut College at the mouth of the Thames River. Dennis placed third, while Billing finished in fourth and fellow Bulldog Urska Kosir ’15 finished just shy of the qualifying mark. Kosir ended the regatta in sixth place, two points behind the fifth-place finisher.

Assistant Coach Bill Healy said the qualifying races went relatively well, although the Elis fell short on their goal of advancing all three sailors to Nationals.

This marks the fourth consecutive year that Dennis and Billing have qualified for Singlehanded Nationals. Both sailors have been selected to represent the Bulldogs at the New England Championship for the past four years.

Dennis said the weekend’s weather conditions went against her sailing strengths and made her races a lot more stressful than she had anticipated.

“It was light, and, though it wasn’t absurdly shifty, there wasn’t a straight breeze at all,” Dennis said. “I would say the one thing that did play to my advantage was current, having grown up in San Francisco and understanding how the current could help me. But light air is just not my strength.”

After day one of the two-day event, Dennis was in fifth place, Billing in seventh and Kosir in sixth.

Dennis said that both she and Billing did not look at the results or think about the standings.

“The first day was light, and I did not do very well until the last five races on Sunday when the breeze came in,” Billing said. “On Sunday, I just tried to start from scratch and not let previous races get into my head.”

Despite a slow Saturday start during the first six races, Dennis and Billing regained their composure and, with sunny conditions surfacing on Sunday, sailed their way back into qualifying positions.

“It was really close,” Healy said. “Only Dennis was in on Saturday. Billing definitely had to make the biggest comeback, after being 20 points out at the end of Saturday. Dennis said it was really nice for Emily and her to qualify together for their fourth and final time together. Emily had a massively impressive last five races to qualify.”

In the past three years at Nationals, Dennis has experienced success, finishing second her freshman year, winning the championship her sophomore year and finishing second last year. In addition, Billing finished sixth her freshman year, fourth her sophomore year and third last year.

Hosted by the University of California, Nationals will take place near the Belmont Pier in Long Beach, Calif. during the first weekend of November.

“Long Beach could be any conditions at that time of year in Southern Calif.,” Dennis said. “But I think for both of us Nationals has always been a better regatta than our qualifier. It’s also a bit less stressful at Nationals because there’s no pressure to qualify for the next step.”

Billing said she feels confident in the girls’ chances to finish their last college Nationals experience with strong performances.

In the next month, the two Bulldogs will prepare to race against the 20 most elite collegiate laser radial sailors from around the country. Healy hopes the girls will practice twice a week with one of the three coaches to do their own practices separate from the rest of the team leading up to Nationals. The week before the Championship, the girls will be practicing every day.

“If we get enough practice, I’m confident we’ll be good,” Healy said. “The windier it is, the better the girls do. If wind picks up during Nationals, they’ll be the ones to beat.”

Besides Dennis and Billing, the Yale men’s team captain Cam Cullman ’13 will represent Yale at Nationals on the men’s side.

The Elis will participate in Women’s Navy Fall Intersectional this weekend at Navy.

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