The sailing season came to a close this weekend at the Atlantic Coast Championships, which pitted the Yale coed and women’s sailing teams against the best 17 schools on the East Coast to mark the end of a successful competitive season.
The No. 3 coed team sailed to a second-place finish at Old Dominion University in Virginia, where light winds on Sunday meant a mentally grueling series of races in which Yale finished two places higher than last year. At St. Mary’s College in Maryland, the No. 3 women’s team pushed through physically and tactically demanding conditions, besting last year’s eighth-place result by coming in sixth. The finishes indicated reasons to be optimistic for the spring season, when both teams compete for nationals.
“ACCs puts in context where you are in terms of the other top teams,” crew Kira Woods ’19 said.
Three of this year’s four skippers sailed the ACCs in 2014 and demonstrated the value of an extra year of experience in exceeding last year’s team results.
At the coed regatta, skipper Ian Barrows ’17 and crew Natalya Doris ’17 finished second in the A Division to lead the Bulldogs. Skipper Mitchell Kiss ’17 was accompanied by crew and team captain Charlotte Belling ’16 for two races, then completed the final eight races of the competition with Clara Robertson ’17. The duo placed fourth in the B division.
The pair of results culminated in an overall second-place finish, a mere five points behind the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
“Overall, it was a really good regatta — we know what we need to work on now,” Doris said. “Starts we realized we needed to do a better job with, we can be a little more aggressive and keeping our heads in the game even when the winds are marginally light and there are on-land postponements.”
The women’s regatta faced challenging conditions on Saturday, with winds upward of 15 knots forcing sailors to focus more on physical exertion than tactics in what Woods described as “survival mode.”
Despite the physically demanding conditions, the Elis were able to consistently finish among the top teams, racking up 14 top-five finishes in 36 races across the two divisions.
“I got better at seeing the overall picture and being consistent — not necessarily focusing on winning the individual race, but looking at the regatta overall,” said skipper KB Knapp ’18 of her improvement over the course of the fall season.
Skipper Casey Klingler ’18, who sailed in the A division, also attributed the team’s improved performance to further practice in high-level regattas and continued attention to minimizing costly mistakes. Klingler, alongside crew Emily Johnson ’16, started off the weekend in strong fashion, earning a pair of second-place finishes within the first three races en route to finishing in sixth.
Meanwhile, Knapp skippered the B division to a ninth-place finish, sailing with both Claire Huebner ’18 and Woods, the sole Yale freshman to compete at the ACCs.
“We had a really good season,” Doris said. “We got to showcase the depth of our team even if we didn’t do super well at some of the events. We showed how good our younger people are, which is really important.”
Woods emphasized the roles of coach Zachary Leonard and assistant coach Bill Healy in the team’s continued progress throughout the fall. In only her freshman season, Woods has already taken note of the coaches’ ability to address flaws on the water and provide guidance moving ahead toward the spring season.
Beyond the coaching staff, Woods commented on the supportive nature of her teammates as the Bulldogs look to replicate the three national championships won last spring.
“It’s a really good learning environment,” Woods said. “We do all we can to improve with the main goal of getting to nationals, and doing well in nationals.”
Consistently ranked among the top teams in the nation, Yale’s sailing program has high expectations for the spring but also understands the importance of keeping emotions in check.
Doris spoke to the team’s mentality as one that focuses on a calm and consistent demeanor.
“The way we run our team is different,” Doris said. “We treat every regatta the same. A lot of teams hype up these big regattas, but we do a good job of keeping the same mentality, being very chill the whole time, not too stressed. We don’t like to change that much each weekend because we like to do our best every weekend.”
With the sailing teams now in their offseason, Yale will turn its attention to physical conditioning as well as tactical preparation for the team racing events that will characterize the spring season.