September 30, 2010

No. 3 Bulldogs Head Out Unaccompanied

Two Bulldogs to Sail in the New England Singlehanded Championships

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—The No. 3 Bulldogs will take to the water alone this weekend, going crewless at the Women's New England Singlehanded Championship hosted by Mitchell College and Connecticut College in New London, Conn. Long known as a singlehanded powerhouse, Yale will once again field an incredibly talented team. Sophomores Emily Billing and Claire Dennis, both very experienced in the Laser Radial (the boat they will sail this weekend), will take to the water to prove that the Bulldogs' recently acquired improved ranking applies to singlehanded as well as doublehanded competitions.

Most college sailing competitions are held in either 420s or FJs, doublehanded racing dinghies. In these boats, skipper and crew work together to pilot the boat to success. However, for two competitions each year, the regional qualifier and the National Singlehanded Championship, those collegiate sailors who want to leave their crews at home and step into either the Laser (for men) or the Laser Radial (for women). The only difference between the boats is the sail surface area, making the Laser Radial easier for smaller people to handle. While some collegiate sailors grew up sailing doublehanded, many only sailed singlehanded before college. This gives everyone a chance to excel in his or her chosen boat.

The Mitchell College sailing program is very excited to host this event as it is a small program that is often overshadowed by nearby Connecticut College and the Coast Guard Academy. Mitchell only owns six 420s making it impossible for it to host a regular doublehanded regatta. However, each sailor will bring her own Laser Radial to the New England Championships making it possible for Mitchell College to host the event despite the fact that they don't have a full fleet. Connecticut College, which has a large program, will help Mitchell run the regatta.

The Bulldogs are quite familiar with both of the sailing venues at Connecticut College and the Coast Guard Academy on the Thames River. However, they will be sailing out of the Mitchell College venue which is located at the intersection of the Thames River and the Long Island Sound. This will play to the advantage of the Bulldogs, who regularly practice on the Long Island Sound, but have less experience sailing on quirky rivers.

Dennis finished fourth at the New England Championships last season in Boston. She then improved on that result at the National Singlehanded Championships in Corpus Christi, Texas finishing a mere six points out of first. After a fabulous result last January at the Miami OCR, Dennis was named to the US Sailing Team Alphagraphics in the Laser Radial. The US Sailing Team Alphagraphics is the national team composed of the Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls. Each Olympic class has two boats on the team. Dennis spent this summer traveling the world and competing at Laser Radial events and hopes to improve on her impressive finish from last year.

Billing finished third at the New England Championships last year. She went on to finish seventh at the National Championship. A former member of the National Development team in the Laser Radial class, Billing decided to trade international travel and competition for a coaching position at the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club summer program this past year. Although Billing has not spent a lot of time in the Laser Radial recently, her many years of experience in the boat will provide her with plenty of tools for success.  

Sarah Lihan '10 will coach Billing and Dennis this weekend. Lihan is on the US Sailing Development Team and had great collegiate success in the Laser Radial, qualifying for the National Championship three out of four years. Lihan, Dennis and Billing are longtime training partners and friends so Lihan will provide Dennis and Billing with both coaching and support.

The top five finishers at the New England Championships will qualify for the National Singlehanded Championships to be held Nov. 6-7 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The prospect of a nice warm weekend of sunny weather at the beginning of November provides the Bulldog with an added incentive.

The road to Florida will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The Bulldogs will also be sailing in the Finger Lakes Women's Intersectional hosted by Hobart William Smith in Geneva, N.Y. The regatta will be held on Seneca Lake, which is the largest of New York's Finger Lakes. Because Hobart William Smith is in the Mid-Atlantic region, racing will begin at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Report filed by Margot Benedict '12, Yale Sports Publicity