The First Leg on the Road to Nationals
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The No. 3 Yale women's sailing team is off to Bowdoin, Maine, this weekend to race in the New England Championships. The stakes are raised at this event, not only because teams will be competing for the New England district crown, but because the 18 schools are also all hoping to earn themselves the right to an extended season. However, only eight teams will leave the regatta satisfied in this regard. New Englands are the first round in qualifying for the ICSA National Championship, to be held at the end of May. As the largest district in collegiate sailing, New England will send the top eight teams from this district qualifier to the semifinals round which is set to be held just prior to the Nationals, at the same venue as the Nationals.
Because New England is the biggest and most competitive district, it is often argued that the New England Championships are more challenging than the semifinals round. However, seeing as the Bulldogs have yet to finish outside of the top four this season, a top-eight finish should certainly be attainable. That said, as all top athletes know, there is no room for complacency. When you are racing at the highest level, everyone is there to win.
Last year the Bulldogs managed to successfully move on from the New England district qualifiers, but in a fashion that left their national championship bid still up in the air. A sixth-place finish was good enough to earn them a spot at the semifinals, however, when the venue of Wisconsin failed to provide sufficient breeze on the semifinals race day, the qualifying system had to revert to the individual district qualifiers to determine which teams qualified for the national championship. There are still hard feelings amongst the returning Yale women who were stripped of their national championship opportunity because only the top five New England Championship teams were granted a nationals berth. With those distant but real memories in mind, the Bulldogs head into this weekend determined not to leave their spot at Nationals up to chance.
The New England Championship Yale squad will include the following: sophomore skipper Claire Dennis, sophomore crew Heather May, sophomore skipper Emily Billing, freshman crew Anna Han, freshman skipper Marlena Fauer, and freshman crew Eugenia Custo Greig. All of these athletes, despite their entirely underclassman status, have shown their ability to finish at the top this season, which is why Yale is sending three-boats-worth of sailors to an event with only two divisions. Alternates are important to have because different crew combinations can be ideal in different circumstances depending on the weather and the team's strategy. It is in this regard that collegiate sailing truly embodies a team sport.
Yale's young team has proven itself all season to be one of the top three teams in the nation. This Friday, accompanied by coach William Healy, the Bulldogs are hitting the road for Maine with the primary goal of earning a reason to purchase plane tickets to Oregon. The Cascade Locks are ultimately where the top 18 teams in the country, determined by the two-step qualification process, will race for all the marbles at the ICSA Women's National Championships, during the last week of May.
Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity