October 1, 2009

Yale Sailors Win U.S. Team Racing Championship

Team Extreme Dethrones Three-Time Champions

2009 Hinman Trophy Results

Video of the Hinman Trophy on SailGroove

MARION, Mass. -- Six Yale sailors -- three undergraduates and three alumni -- combined forces to win the U.S. Team Racing Championship this weekend.  The event, known as the George R. Hinman Trophy, was sailed in breezy conditions off the southern coast of Cape Cod. 

The Hinman Trophy is the nation's premier regatta for team racing, a style of sailboat racing pitting teams of three boats against each other in a bracket format championship.  The six winning sailors, seniors Thomas Barrows, Michael Hession and Marla Menninger and Zach Brown '08, Stu McNay '05 and Emmet Smith '09, practiced together throughout the summer, though this was only their second formal event together.  Barrows, Menninger and Hession took the weekend off from collegiate competition to sail in the event.  The three-boat team was known as "Team Extreme". 

Team Extreme was not favored heading into the event.  "Silver Panda", a team including collegiate coaches and former Olympian Tim Wadlow had won the previous three Hinman Trophies in a row as well as the previous two world championships.  This is not to say that Team Extreme lacked pedigree, however.  Both McNay and Barrows sailed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Barrows, Brown, McNay and Menninger have all earned collegiate all-American honors.

Silver Panda versus Team Extreme would prove to be the theme of the weekend.  Silver Panda showed vulnerability early, losing a race to "Tall Boyz" on Friday while Team Extreme went undefeated.  Silver Panda regained its supremacy by the end of the first round robin with Team Extreme in second.  Team Extreme struggled through the second round robin, leading to a fifth-place seed into the quarter-finals. 

After a best-of-three win in the quarter-finals, Team Extreme won three straight races in a five-race semi-final series to punch its ticket into the finals.  Silver Panda defeated a team from San Diego Yacht Club in the semi-finals to join Team Extreme in the championship round.

The finals were another five-race affair.  Team Extreme took race one, before ceding the second race to Silver Panda.  After winning race three but losing race four, Team Extreme was tied with Silver Panda with one race remaining. 

"We went into the race confident," said Menninger. "We knew that if we could all get off the line we could sail away with the win.  It was 25 knots and raining and we were all drained but we were pumped for the last race."

Team Extreme was able to score a decisive win to be named the 2009 U.S. Team Racing Champions.   

While many teams are composed of friends and past sailing partners, it is rare to have an entire team from one school.  In an interview on Friday, Brown said that "I'm having a lot of fun sailing with my best friends.  We can't even get into an argument out there between the three of us because we're having so much fun."  

For Smith, the championship was the result of a summer's worth of hard work.

"Everybody is busy, but we took whatever opportunity we could get to practice together," Smith said. "And if only two of us could practice we would do that too."

According to Menninger, "We all have the shared experience of sailing for Yale.  It made it feel like that much more of a team win."

Report by Andrew Kurzrok '11, Yale Sports Publicity