With the focus of collegiate sailing centered on Connecticut this past weekend, the varsity sailing team kicked off its 2008 season with promising results.

The Bulldogs took part in three separate competitions over the weekend. The sailing team, currently ranked third nationally, came in third place at the Harry Anderson Trophy competition held at the McNay Family Sailing Center in Branford, Conn., on Saturday. The team also participated in the Pine Trophy and in the Southern Series One competitions.

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Of the 20 teams that participated in the Harry Anderson Trophy, nine were ranked in the nation’s top 10, offering stiff competition to Yale’s sailors. The Elis finished with 34 points in both the A and B divisions. With 68 total points, the Bulldogs finished 10 points behind second-place Boston College and 13 points behind first-place Roger Williams University.

Captain Thomas Barrows ’10 and Blair Belling ’11 competed in the A division of the competition, while Jane Macky ’09 and Marla Menninger ’10 each sailed three races in division B.

Owing to poor wind conditions, only five races were completed within each division. Despite the weather, however, the Bulldogs were content with their overall performance at the first regatta of the season.

“We were pleased with how we did,” Barrows said. “There were only five races when there are normally 10 to 18 races in a regatta, and after the five races we were in close contention for first.”

Added Belling: “The conditions were really difficult, and there was almost no wind the entire weekend. … Still, it was a great warm-up for the upcoming season, and it was cool to be able to sail a regatta at our home yacht club.”

The Bulldog sailors at the Pine Trophy regatta met with less success than their teammates competing at the Harry Anderson. With a total of 58 points, Yale finished 10th overall. New York Maritime came in first, and Ivy rivals Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth also finished above the Elis on the scoreboard.

Andrew Kurzrok ’11, Caleb Dorfman ’09, John Vrolyk ’10 and Rob Struckett ’12 represented Yale at the regatta, which was held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. Despite the final results, the Elis were pleased with their performance in the Colgate 26 keelboat, an unusual event for the Yale sailors.

“Even though the results do not necessarily indicate it, the squad made large strides forward in boat speed and tactics as well as in team work,” Dorfman said. “While this is the only time we will compete in the Colgate this year, it was a worthwhile experience and we certainly learned a lot that we can apply in our dinghy racing careers.”

In addition to racing in an unconventional event, the teams at New London fought through conditions that were similar to those at the Harry Anderson Trophy.

At the Southern Series One regatta, hosted in Bristol, R.I., by Roger Williams University, Emmet Smith ’09 and Rebecca Jackson ’10 represented Yale in the A division, while Genoa Warner ’12 and Jared Shenson ’12 sailed in the B division.

According to Dorfman, the team hopes to improve its sailing technique and boat speed over the next several weeks. He said he expects strong competition from the Georgetown, Boston College and Brown sailing teams but remains confident about the 2008 season.

“While we do enjoy performing well in regattas,” he said, “we feel more confident that the improvements we make in practice and the learning in regattas we are doing now will pay large dividends in the future.”

Barrows echoed Dorfman’s optimism.

“Our team has the potential to win every weekend, and our goal for the season is to win nationals,” Barrows said.

Despite the team’s recent results, Dorfman said he still thinks the team’s efforts will put it in strong contention, even as competition heats up throughout the season.

“I think that the entire team is excited to get back into the swing of racing and continuing our improvement,” Dorfman said. “Each year is a building block, and we have been working very hard the past few years. I feel that this hard work will pay off in solid results for the whole team.”