This weekend, Yale sailing proved worthy of its No. 1 national ranking. At the ICSA National Singlehanded Championships, Cam Cullman ’13 became the new men’s national champion in Lasers, while Claire Dennis ’13 and Emily Billing ’13 finished second and third in the women’s national championship. Lasers are one-person boats, and sailing them requires a skill set different from that required in sailing doublehanded dinghies, boats more frequently raced in college regattas.
The trio’s presence was expected at this year’s Singlehanded Nationals. Last year, Cullman placed third. Dennis was the defending women’s national champion, while Billing finished fourth a year ago.
In early October, Cullman qualified for the Singlehanded Nationals with ease, finishing the New England regional qualifiers with 60 points. The second-place finisher had 118. This weekend, Cullman replicated his dominance on Lake Michigan. Through 15 races over three days, Cullman accrued 57 points, a massive 27 above his nearest opponent. Cullman won five races and finished in the top five in all but four. His mastery was especially impressive since Cullman’s 17 opponents were the best Laser sailors in the country. Cullman said he was grateful for all the coaching he received.
“My coaches Zack Leonard and Bill Healy helped me keep my head on my shoulders, and their strategy allowed me to minimize risk around the race course to sail consistent races and to grab the win,” Cullman said.
Although he is now the national champion in Lasers, the drudgery of student life still remains.
“Now I have to try to study for a neuroscience exam tomorrow, and it’s proving harder than I expected,” Cullman said.
Much as Cullman’s finish at the qualifiers for the Singlehanded Nationals this year was indicative of his performance at the actual Championships, Dennis and Billing finished second and third, respectively, both at the qualifiers and the nationals. Anne Haeger, a senior from Boston College and long-time friend of both Dennis and Billing, played the same role as Cullman, taking first at both regattas.
Last year, Dennis edged out Haeger for the national championship by one point. Although this year Haeger reversed the script, Dennis has yet to finish outside the top two at the Singlehanded Nationals. Through the 15 races of the regatta, Dennis racked up 69 points, eight ahead of Billing and 35 ahead of the fourth-place finisher. Dennis displayed consistency, finishing inside the top five in 11 out of 15 races. While acknowledging that Haeger sailed a race worthy of a national champion, Dennis thought her hard work this fall had paid off.
“I didn’t really have any expectations going in,” Dennis said. “I was just hoping to improve on the things I’ve been working on.”
Billing also enjoyed remarkable success, finishing third overall with 77 points. She placed in the top five in nine races and in the top three in seven of those. Billing showed her versatility in all kinds of winds, as each day of the three-day regatta posed gusts of different strengths.
“It was all about being able to adjust quickly to what the conditions were,” Billing said. “There were light winds the first day, medium winds the second day, and the last day was really windy.”
Next weekend is the final one of the fall season. Both the coed and women’s teams will compete in the Atlantic Coast Championships. The coeds will be in Cambridge, Mass. on the Charles River while the women’s team will travel to Long Island.