As the school year kicks off, both the coed and women’s sailing teams started off their fall seasons at a steady pace, competing in three different regattas this past weekend. Despite their national championship titles from last year, however, this year’s sailing teams started off at considerably lower rankings and are trying to regain their footing in the waters that they used to dominate.
The Bulldogs competed in three different regattas held all over the Northeast. At the Pine Trophy, held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the coed sailing team placed third and successfully secured itself a spot to compete in the New England Match Racing Championship. But the other boats competing had less stellar results, with the coed team placing fifth at the Harry Anderson Trophy, held on home waters, and the women’s team placed at an even lower eighth place at the Toni Deutsch Regatta held at MIT.
Despite the less-than-great results, Saman Rastegar ’16 refused to let the slow start cripple her enthusiasm for the season.
“Regattas don’t define how we are doing as a team. We are all working really well as a team and I don’t think it’s any negative indication at all,” Rastegar said.
Last year, the coed sailing team dominated the collegiate sailing scene, placing first in the Gill Coed National Championship. This was just one of a series of three national championships wins for the Bulldogs last spring, with victories in the Women’s and National Team Championships, a feat that had been unheard of since 1991.
But with a new season comes a new start, with new members and new challenges to face. Last year’s sailing successes were due in large part to the seniors who were integral to the team’s dynamic, and current members lamented the loss of some of their star upperclassmen.
“We had an incredible season last year, and we are working hard to have another great one this year,” Claire Huebner ’18 said. “We lost several important members of our team, but we have a really talented group of sailors who are all practicing hard to perform as well as we did last year.”
The top Yale contingent competed at the Pine Trophy in order to clinch a spot in the New England Match Racing Championship, but that meant that the second coed team was stretched for sailors. The B team was forced to borrow a skipper from the women’s team, and her unfamiliarity with the rest of the crew and the intricacies of coed sailing posed a challenge for the Elis, according to Nic Baird ’19.
Yet many Yale sailors remained optimistic and undeterred from the team’s results. Huebner said that it is hard to start thinking about next June’s national championship regattas after only one weekend of competition.
Baird put a different spin on Yale’s finishes.
“We are doing worse than we usually do, but it’s good for the freshmen,” Baird said. “The faster you bring the freshmen up, all of our practices and results will be better … It doesn’t really matter that we don’t have a great starting weekend. The fall season is experimentation period. Spring championships are what matters.”
Claire Rossi de Leon ’19 agreed, adding that the slow start of the sailing team is simply a part of the process for the team to regain its sea legs.
“Everyone does really well on nationals and then forgets everything over the summer,” Rossi de Leon said. “It takes us a while to pick up speed and to reach the level we were at before.”
Given their groundbreaking performance last season, this year’s sailing teams are undeniably feeling pressure to match last year’s successes.
Rastengar, as a returning member to the sailing team, is acutely aware of the expectations placed upon her and her and her teammates.
“There is always an element of pressure especially because we did so well. But we realize a huge part of it is our daily practices and routines and we take our regattas seriously every year,” Rastengar said. “We are very pleased with how we represented Yale last year and we would like to do it again. It’s more motivation than pressure.”
This weekend, the coed team will be attending three different regattas: the 66th Nevins Trophy at King’s Point, the Hatch Brown Trophy at MIT and the Central Series 2 at Boston College. The women’s team will be traveling to Connecticut College in order to compete in the Stu Nelson Trophy.