Yale’s coed and women’s sailing teams return to the water this weekend for the spring season, determined to defend the three national championships that the two squads combined for last year.

Currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, the coed team emerged from the 2014–15 season with victories at both the team and fleet racing national championships. The women’s team, which also claimed victory in last year’s nationals, is ranked No. 3 after this past fall season. Though the two Yale teams graduated two A-division skippers in their small class of 2015, the vast majority of sailors who competed at nationals last year are still sailing for Yale this year, which head coach Zachary Leonard said should give the Bulldogs a leg up on their competitors in 2016.

“We are returning national champs, so everyone is trying to catch us,” coed captain Mitchell Kiss ’17 said, “But we’re definitely just trying to keep learning and improving as much as we possibly can so that they don’t catch us.”

The coed team has five weekends of competition before the New England Team Race Championship, which will take place April 9–10. The top four teams in that event will qualify for the College Sailing Team Race National Championships at the end of May. In fleet racing, the spring season concludes in late April with the New England Dinghy Championships, which qualifies teams for the coed semifinal and national championship, a fleet racing event held over four days at the end of May and beginning of June.

For the women’s team, the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association qualifiers occur during the Reed Trophy in April, which will be hosted at Yale. If the women’s team successfully qualifies, it will again sail at the women’s semifinals in San Diego during late May, and possibly continue to the national championship.

While the fall season focused on fleet racing, in which sailors compete against up to 17 boats from different schools, for the coed team the spring season has more team races, in which three boats from one team compete in the same race against three boats from another in an attempt to secure a winning combination of finishes.

Meanwhile, though the women’s team will compete in a combination of fleet and team racing events, the women’s national championship is fleet racing only. For both teams, if qualifiers are successful, they will enter a postseason period in May during which the focus will be on training for nationals, Kiss said.

With many different events to compete in, 2015 captain Charlotte Belling ’16 noted that sailors’ flexibility — being willing to sail as both crew and skipper, for example — will be important for the spring.

“We have a lot of crews and a lot of skippers who will be sailing at events they haven’t before, sailing with partners they haven’t before,” Belling said. “So one of our goals for the season is for everyone to adjust for these new roles, and think about how they want to improve individually, but also how we can move forward as a team.”

Returning to the coed team are skippers Ian Barrows ’17 and Malcolm Lamphere ’18, both of whom sailed on Yale’s victorious squad in the team race championships last spring. Barrows, who was also skipper for the winning B-division team at the coed national championship regatta last year, will be “instrumental” in leading the team this season, Belling said. Kiss, who sailed A-division at last year’s coed semifinals and never placed out of the top five, has returned as well.

Casey Klingler ’18 will be a key skipper on the women’s team, along with 2015 women’s captain Marly Isler ’16. As a freshman last year, Klingler sailed Yale’s B division into a sixth-place finish at the 2015 ICSA Women’s Nationals.

Returning crews Clara Robertson ’17 and Natalya Doris ’17, meanwhile, both sailed in last year’s team race championship and will return to both the women’s and coed squads. Dorris also competed in the women’s semifinals, while Robertson crewed for Barrows during the team’s first-place B division finish in the coed championship.

To add to their depth, the Bulldogs welcomed Nic Baird ’19 and Nick Hernandez ’19 this year, who Belling called “top players” for the spring season. The two will compete in a combination of team racing and fleet racing regattas.

“The important thing is gaining momentum right away in the spring season. It’s not very long, and we have to take each event pretty seriously,” said Belling. “Something that we did really well last year was, though we had a lot of successes, especially throughout the team racing season, we still focused on improving, and didn’t let the top results get to us. If anything, they motivated us to keep staying on top.”

This weekend, the women’s team will be competing on home waters at the Women’s Team Race Regatta, while groups from the coed team will travel to Providence, Rhode Island for the Sharpe Trophy, and Charleston, South Carolina for the Bob Bavier Team Race regatta.