As the year draws to a close, so does the Bulldogs’ sailing season. Over the past spring semester, the Elis have sailed in 28 total regattas, facing major winds and frigid New England weather to finish as the No. 1 coed and women’s teams in the country.
In past years, the Bulldogs have dominated the rankings, always placing in at least the top five of the NEISA coaches’ poll. Since 2013, the coed team has owned the No. 1 spot, only dropping to No. 2 and No. 3 in 2015 and 2018, respectively. The women’s team has put together an equally stellar run, only losing out on the top spot in 2014 and 2015. Since then, the female Bulldogs have kept their first-place throne.
“[The other coaches] and I are pretty happy with how the team has performed relative to our potential, and we are also pleased with the effort the team has put forth to keep improving,” sailing coach Zachary Leonard ’89 told the News. “Those are really the things we think most about year in and year out. We have a lot of key players who are putting a lot of their time and mental energy into thinking about how we can all get better.”
Leonard added that while many of the top sailors this year are juniors and seniors, he and his colleagues are “really happy” with how the lower-level students have performed this season.
The coed Bulldogs jump-started their season at February’s Mendleblatt Trophy at the University of South Florida, dominating the competition with a 13/2 record against runner-up Eckerd College, who scored 10/5. A week later, the first team also grabbed the top spot at the Bob Bavier Team Race in Charleston, South Carolina. At both events, the Elis dove into competition — prior to the regattas, the unforgiving Connecticut weather prevented the Bulldogs from practicing.
Alongside their coed compatriots, the women’s team also dominated in its first regattas, taking first at Navy Spring Women’s and at St. Mary’s Women’s InterConference a week later. Yale clinched its third win in a row at the Dellenbaugh Women’s Trophy at Brown in late March, securing first place by a massive 67 points. But the next week, the women’s team faltered, finishing ninth out of 18 teams at the Emily Wick Trophy. Yet the Elis recovered to fifth place at last weekend’s Reed Trophy and NEISA Women’s Championship, earning a spot at Nationals next month.
The Elis ended the Reed Trophy with several conference awards. Louisa Nordstrom ’20 was named Skipper of the Year, while Claudia Loiacono ’21 won First Team All NEISA Crew. Kira Woods ’19 won the same award as Loiacono in addition to being a finalist for Women’s Crew of the Year. Nordstrom also received a First Team All NEISA Skipper award, along with teammate Chrissie Klingler ’20.
“I was very honored to be recognized as a First Team All NEISA Crew, especially after four years, and countless hours, of college sailing,” Woods said. “This is a great end to my NEISA sailing career and feels especially nostalgic given that I started my college career sailing at NEISA women’s regattas.”
The coed team’s Shawn Harvey ’21 and Graceann Nicolosi ’20 were also named NEISA coed sailors of the week.
Only one regatta remains this season for each of the Bulldog teams. This weekend, the coed team will return to the water at the New England Conference Championships at Bowdoin. And at the end of May, the women will defend their title at the ICSA Women’s regatta at Sail Newport.
“I think the women on our team have done really really well this season, and it’s shown by the amount of awards that we’ve each gotten,” Loiacono told the News. “As a whole, our team over the season has performed really well. We’re going to practice really hard and try to win it this year.”
Yale sailors have represented the U.S. in every Olympics since 1992.
Valerie Pavilonis | firstname.lastname@example.org