Three Yale sailors took third place at the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s North American Sloop Championship last weekend at the Balboa Yacht Club in Corona Del Mar, Calif.

Senior skipper Stu McNay and crews Phil Stemler ’07 and Sarah Himmelfarb ’06 finished with a score of 39, just four points behind the University of Southern California. Texas A&M Galveston claimed a decisive first place finish with 20 points. Tufts came in fourth with 48 points.

The finish earned the Bulldogs valuable points in the race for the Fowle Trophy, the “holy grail” of college sailing that Harvard has won for four consecutive years. The Fowle is given to the team that has the best overall performance in college sailing’s six national championships — in men’s and women’s singlehanded dinghies, sloops, coed and women’s doublehanded dinghies, and team racing — over the course of a season.

The contest proved challenging for many teams because sloops differ significantly from dinghies, the traditional boats of collegiate sailing, in that they are longer, heavier, and more difficult to maneuver.

The Bulldog trio was one of the least experienced teams in sloop sailing at the competition, McNay said.

“We did not have any expectations going into the event because it was only our second regatta as a team in sloops — our first being the qualifier,” he said. “I was absolutely thrilled with our third place.”

Texas A&M Galveston had an advantage over the other nine teams because they were more accustomed to sailing the larger boats, Stemler said.

“The winners kicked everyone’s ass mainly because their specialty was sloop sailing,” he said. “It was really tough to put those guys back and stay ahead of them, even if we got better a start.”

Stemler is a contributing reporter for the Yale Daily News.

The competition consisted of 10 races, four of which took place on Friday and six on Saturday. Favorable weather conditions allowed the contest to be completed in two days rather than the allotted three, with winds at a steady 10-12 knots on Saturday.

Although the Elis began the contest on Friday with some average finishes, the team took first place in two of the final three races.

“By the end of the regatta we were coming into our own,” Stemler said.

The championship, sponsored by USC, featured 10 teams from seven U.S. districts. District were allotted one or two spots in the competition, depending on the number of sailing colleges in each. Yale and Tufts represented New England.

Other teams that sailed included the University of South Florida, USMMA-Kings Point, the U.S. Naval Academy, the University of Washington, Ohio University and the University of Michigan.

“Everyone in this regatta had to qualify within their region,” Stemler said. “It was a pretty high-level regatta in that respect.”

Although the fall season is officially over, many team members plan to enter sailing competitions outside the college-sponsored arena including the Vanguard 15 Midwinter Championships, which will be held Jan. 1-2 at the U.S. Sailing Center in Martin County, Fla., and the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, which will be held Jan. 23-28.

“[The Miami OCR] is where we individually qualify for the U.S. sailing team, which is where many of our aspirations lie beyond college sailing,” McNay said.