Dylan Dimarchi

The No.1 Yale coed and women’s sailing teams together share 15 first-year student-athletes on their rosters this season, 11 of whom walked onto the varsity teams.

The sailing teams this year feature significantly more first years than they have in recent history, and more than double last year’s total of six. However, the number of sailors the teams are able to recruit annually has remained capped at around three. Due to this low cap, walk-on members have played a critical role in the growth and development of both Bulldog programs.

With only around three spots for recruitment each year, the sailing teams have historically strengthened outreach efforts in search of walk-ons. According to coed sailing captain Malcolm Lamphere ’18, the Yale sailing teams are among the very few, if not the only, varsity sports teams present at the extracurricular bazaars at the start of the academic year. This year, the Bulldog teams struck gold when 11 first years walked on, increasing the size of the recruited first-year class threefold.

“[Walk-ons] contribute in a million ways: socially, skillfully, emotionally and mentally,” Nic Baird ’19 said. “Our team depends on our walk-ons and they step up to make the team as successful as it is. They don’t really just contribute to the team dynamic: in many ways, they create it. [One] can see from our success what a great job they do each year.”

Walk-on sailors can reach the same levels of success as their recruited teammates. Last year, the Elis had three walk-ons named to the 2017 Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-American Sailing Team. Furthermore, Claire Huebner ’18, who walked on to the team in her first year, captained the women’s team in the fall.

Emery Wallace ’21 is one of the 11 first years who walked on to the varsity sailing squad last fall, and she has gone on to compete for both the coed and women’s teams this season.

“[College sailing] was a big change from high school and summer sailing,” Wallace said. “The other sailors on the team were much more talented than anyone I’d ever raced against before.”

Wallace originally joined the team as crew, a role she held in five regattas during the fall of 2017. At the Norman Reid Team Race last October, she was part of the Yale contingent that took second place overall, falling only to Boston College.

Wallace did not compete in the first few regattas of the spring 2018 competition cycle, which began this March. She returned to the water the first weekend of this month at the Southern Series 5 hosted by the University of Rhode Island. There, she did not reprise her position as crew, but instead skippered with crew Kathryn Clulo ’21, also a walk-on sailor herself. Wallace has competed as a skipper in all regattas since.

“After crewing for really talented skippers all fall, I picked up a lot of new knowledge and skills,” Wallace said. “I noticed that I [had] improved as a skipper despite only ever crewing in the fall.”

This past weekend, Wallace skippered for Yale in the B division of the George Morris Trophy hosted by Boston University, placing 11th within the division and helping to secure a 13th-place finish for Yale overall.

Sailors from all different backgrounds have walked on to the varsity sailing teams this year. Mina Cezairli ’21 learned to sail in Istanbul, Turkey, where she attended high school before coming to Yale.

“The boats I sailed were different [from] those sailed in high school and college sailing,” Cezairli said. “In Turkey, high school sailing wasn’t really a thing; high schools did not normally compete against each other. It was [mostly] individual sailing.”

Baird also addressed the diverse backgrounds and motivations that lead sailors to walk on, which primarily include a love for sailing and a desire to improve, both critical to the success of individual sailors as well as that of the team as a whole.

The coed team heads to Brown this weekend to compete in the New England Coed Dinghy Championship, a qualifier for national semifinals in late May. This past Saturday, the women’s team qualified for its national semifinals after an outstanding second-place finish at the Reed Trophy hosted by the United States Coast Guard Academy. This weekend the women’s squad will compete at the Women’s Team Race National Invite Promotional.

Both the Yale coed and women’s sailing teams are currently ranked number one in the country by the Sailing World Spring Ranking No. 3, published last Thursday.

Raymond Gao | raymond.gao@yale.edu