May 22, 2011

National Championships to Get Underway

The No. 6 Yale Women's Sailing Team is Prepared to Begin Racing in Oregon on Monday

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Final exams concluded nearly two weeks ago, but the No. 6 Yale women's sailing team has yet to leave campus as it has spent these past weeks training vigorously for its biggest regatta of the year.  The team travels Saturday to the Cascade Locks, Ore., where the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Women's Semifinal and National Championships are to be held, starting Monday May 23rd and ending Thursday May 26th.  Nine teams are pre-qualified for the Nationals and will not need to race on Monday thanks to their results at their respective district championships.  Unfortunately the Bulldogs fell just short of that prequalification result at the New England Championships a few weeks ago; however, they are amongst the top teams scheduled to race in the semifinals and are confident in their ability to secure one of the last nine spots available at the Nationals.  

The Semifinals are scheduled to be raced during Monday the 23rd and the first half of Tuesday the 24th.  Once enough races are completed in that round, the top nine finishers will move on to join the prequalified teams.  Thereafter, racing for the National Championship will promptly commence.  Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday will see the top 18 collegiate sailing teams in the nation competing for the national title on the Gorge River, a world-renowned sailing venue that is famous for its strong winds, waves and current.  The raised banks of the river provide for awesome spectating and turn the venue into quite the amphitheater for sailboat racing. 

Although this event has been anticipated all year long to be a "windy nationals", current forecasts are calling for lighter winds ranging from five to 10 miles-per-hour.  Of course, the weatherman is not necessarily one to be trusted and these predictions could change rapidly, but the Yale women know they must be ready for anything that Mother Nature decides to provide.  Beyond the wind, current also poses as an important variable on the Gorge River.  Because the current tends to get quite strong on the Gorge, the Bulldogs have spent some time in practice over the last two weeks attempting to simulate upwind current on the starting line and discussing the ways in which such current can affect one's overall race strategy.     

Travelling with the team to represent Yale at these prestigious regattas will be sophomore skipper Emily Billing, sophomore skipper Claire Dennis, freshman crew Eugenia Custo Greig, freshman skipper Marlena Fauer, sophomore crew Heather May and freshman crew Amanda Salvesen.  Sophomores Dennis and May will be starting in A division for the Bulldogs while freshmen Fauer and Custo Greig will be starting in B division.  The others will act as vital support crew on land as they wait for the conditions to call on them.  With a great number of races scheduled over the course of the four days, most of these athletes are almost guaranteed to see some playing time at one point or another. 

For some of the Yale women, the women's championships do not even mark the end to their season because the ICSA Women's Nationals are to be immediately followed by the ICSA Coed Team Racing and Coed Dinghy National Championships.  A fair amount of overlap exists between the Yale women's and coed sailing teams so many of the top players for the women's team will also be needed to race in the coed championships. 

However, in keeping with the one-race-at-a-time mentality that has brought them success so far, for the time being the women are focused on the women's events at hand.  The No. 6 Yale women's sailing team never once finished outside of the top four during the regular season and poses as a noteworthy contender for the national title.  Many may wonder how such stellar regular season results have landed them just sixth in the national rankings, but in reality rankings mean nothing.  The Nationals are the ultimate proving ground in college sailing where, after four days of racing, the results should very well reveal which teams were best prepared.  Yale's A division skipper, Claire Dennis, recently commented on the fact that Yale is a young team, but noted that "everyone on the team going to nationals has had the opportunity to sail a number of top intersectional so the competition will not be a surprise".  She ended by saying that the team is primarily "looking to continue to improve as [it] has all year and to sail to [its] potential".

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity