No. 2 Bulldogs Prepare for ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championship

Thomas Barrows and Mike Hession. (photo by Rob Migliaccio)
Thomas Barrows and Mike Hession. (photo by Rob Migliaccio)

Weather Remains a Wild Card on Lake Mendota

NEW HAVEN, Conn.  – The Bulldogs' campaign through Madison, Wisc., continues next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday with the ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championship, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The event, held on Lake Mendota, will cap off what has already been a successful year for the Blue, and will hopefully conclude with Yale's first championship since 1975.

The Bulldogs look to continue their fleet racing dominance for much of the past year.  Of the 12 fleet racing events Yale entered in 2009-2010, seven ended as wins.  Skippering in A division at nationals will be senior Thomas Barrows.  Likely crewing for Barrows will be junior and women's captain Blair Belling.  Sophomore coed captain Joseph Morris will skipper in B division.  Senior Marla Menninger will be Morris' primary crew.  A full complement of heavy-air crews is on-hand to properly balance the boats in the event of stronger winds.  Senior Michael Hession and freshmen Claire Dennis and Rafael Fernandez will all be available to rotate in if Lake Mendota serves up fresh breezes. 

The coed championship will test the Bulldogs' endurance because it directly follows three days of team racing at the ICSA/APS Team Race National Championship.  Furthermore, unlike every other in-season college sailing event, the national championship is a three-day affair. 

Lake Mendota has already served up some surprises at the nationals.  The two-day women's semifinals were cancelled after two days of hot, breathless calm under the Wisconsin sun.  However, the lake served up a steady five to 10 knot breezes the following day, only to shut back off for the final day of the women's event.  The week before nationals began, 15-18 knot winds were recorded along the lake.  Just exactly what Mother Nature has in store for competitors will likely determine who hoists the Henry A. Morss Trophy on Thursday afternoon.

The Inter-collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) hosts six national championships each year, and the coed dinghy championship represents the pinnacle of collegiate competition.  The coed dinghy championship is a fleet racing event with two divisions.  Each school fields a boat in both A and B division, and their cumulative scores across the three-day event determine the overall rankings.  The road to the dinghy national championship demands consistency throughout both individual events and the season as a whole.  In New England, teams begin their trek to nationals by qualifying for the New England Dinghy Championship (NEDC) through their scores from the previous season.  Two spots in the 18-boat NEDC fleet are saved for the top two finishers at the New England Dinghy Tournament, an event that is open to all teams in NEISA.  The top eight teams at the NEDC qualify for the ICSA Semifinals.  Yale finished second at New Englands.  The semifinal championship is a new addition to collegiate sailing, beginning two years ago.  The top 36 teams in the country, qualifying through their respective district championships, are divided into two 18-boat fleets.  This year, the semifinal sites were in Seattle and Charleston, S.C.  From this point forward geography does not matter—the top half of each fleet transfers on to the national championship, regardless of where those teams hail from.  Yale was sent to the Western Semifinal and eked out a one-point victory over St. Mary's.       

The other teams that qualified for nationals are Boston College, Brown, College of Charleston, Georgetown, Harvard, Hobart & William Smith, Old Dominion, Roger Williams, St. Mary's, Salve Regina, Stanford, SUNY Maritime, Tufts, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, University of South Florida and Vermont.

The Bulldogs are no strangers to the coed dinghy national championship.  Last year the Bulldogs finished second, 20 points behind winner St. Mary's.  Barrows, Belling and Menninger, along with Jane Macky '09, won A division while Morris, Hession and Grace Becton '09 finished fourth in B division.  Yale finished eighth in 2008 and third in 2007.         

Live video coverage of the event will be provided by sailgroove here and a twitter page will provide up-to-the-minute reports here.  Be sure to check for a recap of each day's racing.

Report by Andrew Kurzrok '11, Yale Sports Publicity