As Yale students kick off the new school year, the Bulldog sailing teams are returning to the water after a tremendously successful 2018–19 season.
Last year, both squads of Elis took first place in nearly half of their regattas, with the women’s team clinching third at the Sperry Women’s National Championship and the coed team claiming first at the LaserPerformance Team Race National Championship. While the spring season pushed the Bulldogs against harsh winds and often frigid temperatures, the coed team returned to take second place at the Gill College Coed National Championships at the end of May, finishing just five points behind the College of Charleston.
“We’re just really hoping that we can continue to evolve our training and team culture to continue to get better as fast as we can,” head coach Zachary Leonard ’89 said. “That’s our sole goal. If each person on our team can improve as much as they’re capable of during the time we have, we feel like we’ll have a good chance to be successful.”
According to Leonard, the team returned early to Yale’s campus to practice a full week before classes began, starting their four-day-a-week training schedule. He added that while sailing occupied some team members’ summers, other Bulldogs took breaks from the sport during the season to pursue other interests.
The Elis will have to account for the loss of a few key sailors from last season’s exemplary team. Kira Woods ’19 won First Team All NEISA Crew following last year’s Reed Trophy while also ending her senior season as a finalist for Women’s Crew of the Year. Meanwhile, Marlow Ropes College Sailor of the Year Nic Baird ’19 racked up honors, such as ICSA Coed All-American Skipper and 1st Team All NEISA skipper, and Nick Hernandez ’19 secured wins at several key regattas.
“I think the team will take one step back right away as they adapt to losing some key members, but then they will take two big steps forward,” Baird told the News last May. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if they go on to continue the dynasty Yale sailing has created in college sailing.”
Leonard said that both new and old members are working to establish a team camaraderie. And while graduation last year certainly brought about the loss of some experienced members, Leonard added that several veteran sailors still remain on the team and that he is “really excited” about this upcoming year.
The Bulldogs open their season on Sept. 7 with the Harry Anderson Trophy and Pine Trophy in Connecticut. Last year, the coed team won second place at the Pine Trophy and clinched first at Harry Anderson — a feat the Bulldogs are eager to replicate.
“I think we’ve been making a lot of improvements, especially over the last week or so,” crew Claudia Loiacono ’21 said. “Usually we tend to do pretty alright in the first regatta because a lot of people on the team also sail over the summer. We have a large freshman class, and they’re pretty good. I think we’re starting from a really good spot.”
Loiacono added that the team currently has access to sixteen boats during practice and since a normal regatta usually involves about eighteen boats, it’s possible to simulate an actual race during training.
The coed team is currently ranked No. 2 behind Stanford while the women’s team is ranked No. 3 behind Brown and MIT.
Valerie Pavilonis | firstname.lastname@example.org