This weekend, the Yale sailors became the first collegiate team race champions of 2009 as they took home first place at the Mendelblatt Team Race in St. Petersburg, Fla. The No. 12–ranked team went 9-1 in the Championship Round Robin at the event co-hosted by the University of South Florida and Eckerd College.

The race was the first competition since mid-November when the Elis left the water for the northern winter. It was the first time the Bulldogs competed in this race, and the third year in a row they have won the first team race of the year.

“There were a few more southern teams that had been practicing, which gave them more of an edge that they wouldn’t have had,” captain Thomas Barrows ’10 said.

Skippering throughout the weekend for the Elis were Barrows, Cameron Cullman ’12 and Joseph Morris ’12. Their crews included Grace Becton ’09, Adriane Levin ’09 and Blair Belling ’11. It was Morris and Cullman’s collegiate team racing debut.

“It was their first time racing together as a team,” Barrows said. “With two freshman skippers it was great to start off on a good foot.”

Seventy-two-degree temperatures and 6 to 8 knot winds awaited the Elis in Florida, and sailing on Saturday began with light chop and current. The first round was comprised of two divisions, each representing seven colleges.

“I know a lot of the guys, and being able to race them now in the college circuit — it’s cool to be able to race against your friends,” Cullman said. “As a freshman I just want to learn a lot. Then I’ll set some goals.”

Yale was given a redress for a breakdown versus Eckerd because Morris’ and Becton’s mast stay broke during the regatta. The race was rerun the following day after the wire was fixed, and Yale won the rematch.

The top four finishers in each division went on to compete in a Championship Round Robin held Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Each team fielded three boats of two people each, and schools competed directly against each other, two at a time. The six boat regattas were then tallied for the wins.

On Sunday, eight teams returned to a windless morning. As the day progressed, the wind built to 10 knots, but their shifty nature postponed play throughout the post-lunch period.

In the final race against the University of South Florida, Morris explained, the race was down to the wire until the last 50 feet. It was the tie-breaking race that won Yale the first place title.

In the championship round, the Bulldogs went 6-1. USF, the next best team, went 5-2, and five teams tied with a 3-4 record.

“Considering how young our team is, we had a really good performance,” Morris said. “Being able to come away with the win was something we were really happy about.”

Cullman added, “The more important thing is, we are a very young team; we went out there to learn.”

The team is enjoying the sunny weather in the South as they wait for Yale’s McNay Family Sailing Center to reopen for their spring training sometime in the next few weeks.

“It was really great. When I came back off the plane in New York, I was in my shorts and was really cold. I even got a little sunburnt,” Cullman said.

Next weekend, the team will head to the No. 10 University of Charleston for the Charleston Spring Intersectional held on Feb. 21 and 22.