May 1, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The No. 5 Bulldog coed sailing team will compete this Saturday and Sunday at the ICSA Western Semifinal hosted by No. 8 Harvard with the hope of qualifying for its third straight ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championship. The Bulldogs will hope to finish in the top nine teams this weekend to guarantee themselves a place at the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championship to be hosted by No. 13 Stanford in San Francisco. The team will also compete at the 61st BU Trophy hosted by No. 13 Boston University.
The Bulldogs have been doing well all season, but this is the critical weekend for the team. This weekend, 36 of the top teams in college sailing will meet in Boston's Inner Harbor to face off to earn the right to represent their institutions at the National Championships. Delivering a top-notch performance is critical for this weekend as the top nine teams from each of the two semifinal events will qualify for the National Championships.
This is only the second year that a Semifinal system has been used as a qualifying step towards Nationals. In the past, each of the seven conferences in college sailing received a set number of berths to the National Championships as determined by the number of schools competing in the district. In addition to the schools that qualified through their conference championships, two schools received at-large berths. The system, however, did not guarantee the stiffest competition possible. Typically, many nationally ranked schools from the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) conference, the conference the Bulldogs compete in, would miss out on the National Championships while teams from weaker districts would qualify.
The new system, however, ensures that the competition at the National Championships will be truly tough. Both the Western Semifinal, which the Bulldogs will compete in, and the Eastern Semifinal, hosted by MIT on the same dates at the same location, will feature 18 teams that qualified for the event based on their performance at their conference championships. The top nine teams at each of the two Semifinals will then move on to make up the 18-team fleet at the ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championships.
The Bulldogs did very well the only other time a Semifinal event was hosted. At last year's event, hosted by Southern California in Long Beach, Calf., the Bulldogs took second behind No. 2 Georgetown, the team that went on to win the National Championship.
The National Semifinals will be a good showcase for sailing. Taking place in two fleets of FJs, 36 boats will be on the water at once right off the Fan Pier in Boston's Inner Harbor. Spectating will be great from the shore while spectator boats will also be available to take viewers on the water. The event will also take place at the same venue that the Volvo Ocean Race boats will be stopping at during the regatta. The Volvo Ocean Race is one of professional sailing's premier events. Seven teams of 11 crew each are racing more than 37,000 miles around the world, only making stops at designated locations. The stop at Boston's Fan Pier, which will take place during the ICSA National Semifinals, is the only stop that the boats will make in North America.
Competition at the ICSA Western Semifinal will be fierce to qualify for Nationals. Ranked teams competing in the Semifinal besides the Bulldogs include Harvard, No. 1 Boston College, No. 4 College of Charleston, No. 9 SUNY Maritime, No. 10 Connecticut College, No. 11 Hobart/William Smith, No. 17 Washington College and No. 18 South Florida.
The Bulldogs will also compete at the 61st BU Trophy hosted by Boston University. The event should provide tough competition for the Bulldogs. Because only eight teams from NEISA qualified for the ICSA National Semifinals, the other teams in NEISA may send their top teams to compete at the event. The event, which takes place on the Charles River in FJs, is known for its tricky conditions. The wind at the venue is typically very shifty and it is difficult to predict the shifts at the historically light air venue.
Last year was the best year for the team at the event in more than a decade. The Bulldogs took sixth, matching their result from 2004. The team has not won the longstanding event since 1971. The Bulldogs were eighth in A division and seventh in B division last year.
The ICSA Western Semifinal will start at 9:00 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday while the BU Trophy will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday and 9:30 a.m. on Sunday.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity