In seven regattas spanning from Boston to Annapolis, the Yale coed and women’s sailing teams cruised to six top-three finishes over spring break.
With qualification for nationals looming for both teams and a spring season that emphasizes strategic team racing versus the fall’s fleet racing focus, the Bulldogs spent the break both training in Florida and competing up and down the East Coast against primarily other teams in the New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association. The No. 3 women’s team nabbed a first-place finish at Navy the weekend of March 12 before third- and fifth-place finishes in regattas over the past two weekends. The No. 2 coed team, meanwhile, sailed in four regattas, three of which came down to tiebreaking face-offs for Yale. In the end, the team never placed outside the top two, earning one win and three runner-up finishes.
“What was really exciting was that it is really easy to see how much we improved just from having one week of sailing and practicing … during spring break,” crew Natalya Doris ’17 said. “At the [Bob Bavier Team Race on March 5], we were making a couple of mistakes that we shouldn’t have been making … but after spring break we improved a lot and learned a lot, and now we’re just focusing on learning as much as we possibly can and working well with each other because we have national qualifiers in two weeks.”
The women’s team began its break in Annapolis, where it sailed to victory at the Navy Spring Women’s regatta, 11 points ahead of second-place Georgetown. The win marked the Bulldogs’ second consecutive victory of the spring season. Casey Klingler ’18 and Emily Johnson ’16 sailed A Division, in which the duo placed first, while Marly Isler ’16 and Kira Woods ’19 cruised to second in B division. The Bulldogs returned to Annapolis the following weekend for the St. Mary’s Spring Intersectional, where they held onto a top-four spot for much of the regatta until losing the tiebreaking race to Stanford and falling to fifth. The previous weekend’s A division sailors again competed for Yale, placing sixth, while KB Knapp ’18 skippered to eighth in B with alternating crews Claire Huebner ’18 and Woods.
The women’s team also competed in the Joseph R. Duplin team race regatta at Tufts, an atypical racing configuration in the women’s division, which usually focuses on fleet racing. Isler, Knapp and Huebner skippered with crews Woods, Johnson and Caroline Colwell ’18. After a 4–3 record in the first round robin of the eight-school competition, the team proceeded to the final four, where it only lost one race to Dartmouth, which eventually won the regatta. After losing to Dartmouth, Yale proceeded to win its next two races to finish in a three-way tie with Brown and Tufts at 6–4. Yale took second place in the tiebreaker to earn the Elis a third-place result.
“Everyone is improving as we move onto fleet racing,” assistant coach William Healy said. “We have another month to go [to qualifiers], so we still have a lot to do, but things are coming along really well. We are getting into the meat of our season here, so now with everyone through their midterms, they can be a little more free mentally to work hard during practice and charge ahead from here.”
Additionally, the coed team kicked off spring break at the Ice Breaker fleet race regatta hosted by Connecticut College. Eric Anderson ’16 skippered A division into sixth with crews Amelia Dobronyi ’17 and Claire Rossi de Leon ’19, while Knapp and Charles Skoda ’17 sailed to third in B division. The team’s consistent performance throughout — the B division claimed four consecutive first- or second-place finishes in the 13-race event — led to a first-place tie with Tufts at 148 points each. Yale lost in the head-to-head tiebreaker, taking second in the event.
The following weekend, another coed group took second at the Graham Hall Team Race regatta in Annapolis. Skippers Ian Barrows ’17, Malcolm Lamphere ’18, Mitchell Kiss ’18 and Nicholas Baird ’19 rotated throughout the event with six different crews including Meredith Megarry ’17, for whom this was the first event of the 2015–16 season. Losing only three races out of the 20 sailed, Yale’s 17–3 mark was second only to Georgetown’s 18–2 record.
“We tried to make sure that everybody had the opportunity to sail and practice with different people without changing it up every single race, which is important for the team for future competitions,” said crew Clara Robertson ’17, who competed in 19 of the 20 races. “The rotating plan gave people the chance to learn both on and off the water. In off races, we could learn from our coaches and from watching, and internalize the previous races.”
A similar crop of sailors traveled to the Coast Guard Academy for the Jan T. Friis Team Race on March 26. The Bulldogs lost only two races out of 11 on Saturday, one of which was to Stanford, whom Yale eventually beat in a tiebreaker sail-off for second. Boston College took first with a 10–1 record, with its one lost race coming against Yale. Though the Elis were en route to winning the regatta with three wins in the final four on the second day of competition, the race was called due to the official 3 p.m. cutoff time, negating Yale’s three Sunday wins and giving Boston College the victory. Meanwhile, skippers Klingler, Anderson, Christopher Champa ’18 and Nicolas Hernandez ’19 sailed at the Boston College Team Race, capping off spring break sailing with another Yale victory. Eli sailors won every race in the first round robin, before finding themselves in a tie for first at 11–4 with Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Yale took the victory in the tiebreaker.
Only one weekend of competition remains before the coed New England Team Race Championship on April 9, which will allow the Bulldogs to qualify for the national championship in May. Additionally, both the women and coed teams have fleet racing qualifications at the end of April. Hernandez praised the spring break competitions for putting the team “on track,” and allowing it to be “surgical” about strategy during team races leading up to nationals.
“Instead of focusing on one bad situation, we try to learn something from everything,” Doris said. “We have worked really hard to make sure everyone is learning and everyone is really involved. The underclassmen have been really important because we practice with them, and when we do team races in practice, they are always the people we sail against. Having them do so well is exciting because it means the whole team is improving.”
The women’s team is scheduled to compete once this upcoming weekend while the coed team has three regattas planned.