SAILING | Bulldogs finish in second

Yale raced in J/22 boats, a 22-foot-long racer, and came out with a 4–5 record.
Yale raced in J/22 boats, a 22-foot-long racer, and came out with a 4–5 record. Photo by Zeenat Mansoor.

While most Yale students were at the Game in Cambridge, the Yale sailing team was yet again contending for national recognition.

From Nov. 16 through Nov. 18, the Yale coed sailing team competed at Eagle Mountain Lake in Fort Worth, Texas for the ICSA Match Racing National Championships and Cornelius Shields Sr. Trophy. The Bulldogs raced in J/22 boats, a 22-foot-long racer, and came out with a 4–5 record. Yale persevered and focused for the bracket sailing, winning a second-place finish.

“We were able to keep our composure and recognized we were getting better as the event went on,” skipper Graham Landy ’15 said.

The Elis struggled to produce the form that has earned them a No. 3 national ranking this year, but after tuning up during the round robin, the Bulldogs advanced along with five other schools — down from the original 10 — to the knockout rounds.

In the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs were ranked as the fourth seed and took down the third seed University of South Florida in a best-of-three series.

The semifinals put the Elis in a familiar situation, but with a twist. The Bulldogs now were facing Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, the number one seed, in a head-to-head showdown.

At the ICSA National Championships, the Bulldogs were no longer racing in the familiar fleet style they have sailed so many times — they were racing one-on-one.

But the change did not confuse the Bulldogs as they slid past Saint Mary’s, giving up just one win.

“The key to our success was that we were able to practice with some very experienced match racers before the event, including Yale sailing alumnus Dave Perry,” skipper Max Nickbarg ’14 said.

Finally, as the Bulldogs advanced to the final round, Tufts — the team Yale swept in the New England Sloop championship to qualify for the ICSA Match Racing National Championships — remained the only team between Yale and a first-place finish.

The Bulldogs quickly won the first race, but issues in positioning before the start of the next two races left Yale in the dust as Tufts picked up the next two victories and the Cornelius Shields Sr. Trophy.

“Some of the finishes were very close, within a foot or two of the other boat and unfortunately Tufts defeated us in the last two races,” Nickbarg said.

Nickbarg added that because the Elis are used to sailing in Northeastern climate, there was bound to be a difference in conditions when they travelled to Texas.

“I think we were relatively strong in all conditions which allowed us to ‘out-boat-handle’ most of the other teams there,” Nickbarg said.

Mountains surround Eagle Mountain Lake, which makes wind more erratic according to Landy. This inconsistency brought slower winds during round robin competition, but the wind picked up and the Elis proceeded to sail in normal conditions for the knockout rounds.

Landy said the team is content with its second-place finish overall.

“The whole team was a little fatigued near the end of the season,” Landy said. “But we were certainly pleased with our performance. It isn’t often that Yale qualifies for this event.”

The sailing team now will take a break from competition and focus on off-the-water training in preparation for the spring season, which will begin in February.

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