SAILING | Bulldogs compete at National Championships

Claire Dennis ’13 finished in the top three at the championships for the fourth time.
Claire Dennis ’13 finished in the top three at the championships for the fourth time. Photo by Zeenat Mansoor.

While most of Yale confronted a hurricane last week, one member of the No. 3-ranked Yale co-ed sailing team and two members of the No. 1 women’s sailing team braved the elements in Long Beach, Calif.

Last week, Cameron Cullman ’13, Claire Dennis ’13 and Emily Billing ’13 joined 33 other athletes at one of the nation’s most elite sailing competitions: The Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s Singlehanded National Championships. Cullman was unable to defend his national title and finished in fourth, while Dennis and Billing finished in third and tenth place, respectively.

Dennis finished in the top three at the ISCA championships for the fourth time in four career trips to the competition. Her string of successes fittingly came to an end where she grew up and where her single-handed sailing career began: her home state of California.

The other sailors also said they enjoyed being in California, as the weather was certainly a welcome alternative to the hurricane that passed through New Haven this weekend.

“The weather was very nice,” Billing said. “The mornings were very light but the breeze generally built throughout the afternoon before diminishing in the late afternoons. We never saw any windy races but the conditions were challenging.”

Of the three, Cullman was under the most scrutiny as the defending national champion. And while he was somewhat disappointed with his fourth-place finish, Cullman said he was pleased with the team’s overall performance and added he did not find balancing the pressure of being the defending champion difficult.

“Any pressure came from being the only one to earn points for Yale and I didn’t feel it affected my sailing whatsoever,” Cullman said in an email. Cullman also explained how his struggles this weekend reflected the challenges of student-athletes at Yale, as he spent time working in a lab in Europe over the summer while many of his collegiate competitors were training for the next regatta.

The race was unlike any other the Elis had sailed this season. All of the sailors competed in laser radials, a singlehanded Olympic class of boat rather than the usual double-handed one, where one person sits in the boat as opposed to two. That change would prove to be a real adjustment, according to Billing and Dennis.

“It was fun, but frustrating at certain times,” Billing said in an email. “I am definitely more comfortable in doublehanded … now that I have been practicing in them for three years.”

The race was also different because, as Cullman explained, the team was competing for Fowle Trophy points, which determine a team’s national ranking at the end of the year and are only awarded at the most important competitions of the season.

Though the hurricane did not affect the race directly, the Elis lost three important days of practice immediately before the race, Billing said.

The co-ed and women’s sailing teams will race again this weekend at the Atlantic Coast Competition at the Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, N.Y.

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