Yale’s coed sailing team — the reigning national champions who are currently ranked number one in the nation — had three of its members qualify for the ICSA Singlehanded National Championship this past weekend.
The ICSA conducts national championships in six different categories, three of which take place in the fall, including the Men’s Singlehanded Championships races in Laser boats. On Saturday, the top four finishers at the New England Singlehanded Championship, three of whom are from Yale, were granted berths to solo sailing’s biggest stage. Malcolm Lamphere ‘17, Mitchell Kiss ‘18 and Nicholas Baird ‘19 managed to secure three of the four berths awarded at the New England event, with Lamphere placing second, Baird placing third and Kiss finishing fourth. Rounding out the four slots from the skilled New England region was regatta winner Juan Perdomo of Harvard.
“A lot of work was put in throughout the years and over the summer,” Lamphere said. “New England is one of the toughest divisions … just qualifying is an incredible feat.”
Head coach Zachary Leonard highlighted the feat as historic and potentially unprecedented, noting that several of the race’s competitors may end up participating in the Olympic Games.
“I don’t think we’ve ever qualified three boys for the men’s singlehanded championship,” Leonard said. “I’m not really sure if anyone ever has.”
For two of the three Bulldogs now preparing to sail for an individual national title, experience may be on their side. Lamphere, a sophomore, and Kiss, a junior, are now a combined five-for-five in their careers in qualifying for this event.
A year removed from placing fourth in the national championships, Lamphere is confident he can contend for the top spot this time around.
“I really like my chances this year,” Lamphere said. “This summer I did a lot of regattas. I was in Canada, New Jersey and North Carolina just trying to get better … I got a lot faster.”
Kiss, who boasts three national championship appearances in three opportunities, said that past success has not reduced the significance of qualifying this year.
In fact, Kiss nearly missed the cut to qualify, edging out Coast Guard sailor Avery Fanning in the fourteen race event to lay claim to the cherished final spot. He described the race as “very nerve-racking,” adding that three people were challenging one another for a total of two spots.
Although the three Yalies will compete against each other for the national crown, all three agreed that this would not cause any tension or serve as a distraction during training.
“We are all pushing to become the best sailors we can possibly become,” Baird said. “So we are not really competitive between each other. We are all really supportive of each other especially because we know that the stronger the team we have the better it is for all of us.”
According to Baird, there is a distinction between preparing together versus competing in the event. He noted that when competing, “each of us will do anything to win the race.”
From the team’s perspective, these three individual performances are a welcome sign as the coed team, as well as the women’s team, seeks to defend their respective team national championships.
Captain Charlotte Belling ’16 shared her excitement in terms of what this achievement demonstrates about the versatility of the program.
“The three Laser sailors belonging to different grades are also extremely competitive at double-handed events, as well as both fleet racing and team racing,” Belling said.
While the solo sailors dominated on Niantic Bay, both the coed and women’s teams were also in action. The coed team finished in seventh place at the Salt Pond Invite at Rhode Island, as well as an eleventh-place finish at the Hood Trophy hosted by Tufts.
Meanwhile, the women’s team sailed to a ninth-place finish at the Regis Bowl regatta hosted by Boston University.
Neither Belling nor Leonard were concerned about the finishes for the top-ranked teams, citing experimental pairings which are a common feature of the fall season as well as some more experienced members of the women’s team sailing in the coed events.
“This early on in the year, we are less focused on results but rather trying to figure out what we need to improve on individually and as a team,” Belling said. “Regardless of the results, each regatta is a success, as we always find areas of our game we can rethink and fine tune.”
The Yale women will get their chance to qualify for nationals this weekend, at the NEISA Women’s Singlehanded Championship hosted by Boston College.