The Yale sailing teams will return to the water this weekend for the Mendelblatt Team Race in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The races this Saturday and Sunday will kick off the Bulldogs’ spring season, which will consist of 30 competitions over 15 weekends. These competitions are primarily team races in which three Yale boats race against three boats from the competing school. The team’s fall season consisted of mostly fleet racing, where one Yale boat sails against up to 17 others from an array of schools. The Elis look forward to getting back on the water this weekend after a winter in the gym.

“I am really excited to head to Florida this weekend for the Mendelblatt,” Anisha Arcot ’22 said. “It is a great opportunity to get some more practice in before the season gets into full swing.”

During their fall fleet racing season, the Bulldogs won 13 of the 35 regattas they competed in. In October, Yale hosted a women’s regatta at the McNay Family Sailing Center, finishing in first place among the 17 schools. One of the Bulldogs’ final events of the fall campaign was the 79th Professor Erwin Schell Trophy, a conference championship that invited top teams to MIT. During a weekend with frustrating wind conditions, the Bulldogs sailed to a second place in each division to end the weekend second overall. In early November, Louisa Nordstrom ’20 competed in the Women’s Singlehanded Nationals in Santa Barbara, fighting to a ninth-place finish among a very competitive field.

While the winter weather restricts the team from practicing on the water during its offseason, the team has remained active since November. Besides regular meetings, the Elis lift multiple times a week, splitting the team up across several lift times. Over winter break, some team members traveled to Florida to work on team racing skills in preparation for spring regattas.

“We worked hard to spend more time on team racing at the end of the fall and some over winter break to get everyone up to speed,” Chrissie Klingler ’20 said. “The early season regattas will be great opportunities to continue building up our skills before the New Englands and Nationals later on in the spring.”

In 2019, the team graduated two of three of its starting team race skippers and one of its starting team race crews, changing the team dynamic and requiring them to train new members in the different strategy of team racing.

The first-year class includes nine new sailors hailing from everywhere from Maine to Romania. Some have never team sailed before, and others have won national championships — a dynamic that should make for an exciting first season.

“We’ve gotten a lot closer over the past few months of the offseason with being able to bond on land and I think it will be neat to see how this translates into contributions to our team dynamic while racing,” Sydney Zoehrer ’23 said.

The sailing team has shone over the past several years under the leadership of head coach Zachary Leonard, who took over the staff in 2002. Leonard has led the team to 16 ICSA National Championships, 39 National Championship podium finishes, and four Fowle Trophies for the team of the year in college sailing.

Heading into its 2020 season, the team ultimately hopes to take home the national title, but for now, it is focused on cultivating a strong team culture as it takes in a new class of sailors. This weekend’s opener serves as an opportunity to continue building on the skills they developed in the fall season.

“Personally a goal that I have for people on the team is to see everyone make a positive contribution to team culture through a different method than they have previously tried out — big or small, whatever it might be,” Zoehrer said.

The Bulldogs will set sail this Saturday and Sunday in St. Petersburg, Florida.


Alessa Kim-Panero |