The No. 2 coed sailing team capped an impressive fall season with a fourth-place finish at the ICSA Match Racing National Championships on the weekend of Nov. 22.
Match racing involves head-to-head races, rather than the usual college format of having all of the teams sail at the same time.
Captain Chris Segerblom ’14 said that he is a personal fan of both match racing and the excitement that so often accompanies such regattas.
“Match racing is exciting because it’s just you and the other boat fighting for every inch,” Segerblom said.
At nationals, crews competed in boats known as Sonars — a type of vessel that the Bulldogs were unable to acquire during their preparation period for the St. Petersburg, Fla. event.
Yale’s lack of practice initially appeared to be a nonissue. During the first two round-robin stages, Yale established itself as the front-runner thanks to 12 victories in 14 head-to-head matchups. This dominance earned the Bulldogs the number one seed heading into the knockout stages of the competition.
Crew Graham Landy ’15 said that Elis’ strong performances in the early races were indicative of how solid a team they were all season long.
“Match racing is completely different from anything that we do all year,” Landy said. “But I think the results from the round robins were a testament to the talent and skill of our team.”
Pitted against the University of Wisconsin in the quarterfinals, Yale’s group, led by skipper Segerblom, handled the Badgers with ease. The Elis swept Wisconsin 2–0 in the best-of-three format. Crew Max Nickbarg ’14, Landy and Marly Isler ’16 joined Segerblom aboard the Bulldog boat.
The win over Wisconsin secured Yale a berth in the semifinals alongside No. 1 Georgetown, No. 4 College of Charleston and No. 10 St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
In the semifinals, Yale jumped in front by winning the first race against College of Charleston. Just one win away from a chance at the national championship, the Elis slipped under windier conditions and dropped the final two races to the Cougars.
How Yale lost only added to the heartbreak. In the third and final race of the semifinals, the Cougars edged out the Bulldogs by less than three feet. For perspective, the Sonar boats themselves are 23-feet long.
“Our last race in the semis proved how crucial every inch can be,” Segerblom said. “Less than three feet determined the difference between making the finals and not.”
Demoralized by the defeat, the Bulldogs were unable to stop the bleeding. Yale could not cross the line first against St. Mary’s in the one-race petit-final that determined third place, leaving the Bulldogs to finish in fourth place.
Isler said that the effects of the tight loss to College of Charleston certainly had an impact on the team’s performance against St. Mary’s.
“After losing the semifinals, we were all heartbroken,” Isler said. “Our goal to be match race national champions seemed like something attainable even up to the last second of the final race of the semifinals. So after missing out on that goal, it was hard to bounce back and beat St. Mary’s for the third place spot.”
With the fall season now officially complete, the coed team will now have the winter to rest and refuel for the spring season, which is generally regarded as more important than the fall season in collegiate sailing — a silver lining for the Bulldogs. This fact did not go unnoticed by Landy in reflecting upon the fall season.
“We developed a good foundation to work with for the more important spring season,” Landy said. “Most importantly we discovered small weaknesses at the more competitive events towards the end of the fall season, things that we can talk about during the offseason and correct once we hit the water again in February.”
In the championship race of nationals, Georgetown solidified its No. 1 ranking with a 2–0 sweep of College of Charleston.