May 27, 2011

Bulldogs Finish Fifth at Nationals

In a regatta with conditions that left something to be desired, the Yale women's sailing team was in it to win it up until the very last race.  Also, skippers Dennis, Fauer and Billing receive All-American honors. 

CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. – All year the college sailing world lived in anticipation of what it thought would certainly be a windy National Championship at the Gorge in Oregon.  That National Championship concluded today after only seven races could be completed in each division because the wind was, more often than not, too weak to compete.  The difficulty in running races in such light winds was exacerbated by current that was often stronger than the wind and moving in the opposite direction.  Nonetheless, the Yale women's sailing team sailed a relatively strong overall regatta.  Many top teams were much more thrown off by the conditions than the Bulldogs were and, in the words of head coach Zack Leonard, Yale's McNay Family Director of Sailing, the Bulldogs essentially "achieved [their] goal".  According to Leonard, all they could ask was to "be in contention [to win] going into the final races" and that they most definitely were.  Going into the final race in B division, Yale was in second overall, just five points out of first.

The Columbia River, on which the regatta was sailed, flows from East to West, but the wind almost always blows from West to East, as it did for every race this regatta.  Such opposing forces, and in such a balanced ratio, made for very short upwind legs and extremely long downwind legs.  For this reason, the downwinds were significantly trickier and more critical than the upwind.  Not to say that the upwinds were insignificant.

Freshman skipper Marlena Fauer and freshman crew Eugenia Custo Greig, Yale's B division sailors, can personally attest to how much of the regatta was determined on the downwind legs.  Over the course of the first six races, Fauer and Custo Greig's downwind speed was one of the major reasons for their leading B division.  Unfortunately it was in the seventh and final race that they had to experience their worst downwind of the regatta and drop 10 places in that leg alone.  Such races were experienced by almost every competitor at some point in the regatta; theirs was just very inconveniently timed seeing as it meant the difference between second and fifth in the final standings.  The good news is, though, that Fauer and Custo Greig have three more years of college sailing ahead of them, in which experience in such pressure situations will no doubt help them to many further successes.  Not to mention, this freshman duo still placed third overall in their division.

Sailing for Yale in A division was sophomore skipper Claire Dennis, sophomore crew Heather May and senior crew Elizabeth Brim.  These Bulldogs had their ups and downs throughout the event, but turned it on in their final race which Dennis and Brim won to bring the Bulldogs within five points of first.  They also sailed to a fourth place finish in an eighth A division race that was never scored because the race committee was incapable of getting off an eighth B division race before the five o'clock cutoff time.  As a testament to how close the racing was, Yale finished eighth overall in A division, but just three points from fifth and thirteen points from first.

Following racing on Thursday, after three days of more on-land postponement than racing, but close racing nonetheless, all of the competitors, coaches and some parents attended the ICSA award banquet.  Dinner was included and the top three finishing teams received trophies.  The Saint Mary's College of Maryland Seahawks took third, the Connecticut College Camels took second and the University of Rhode Island Rams took the overall victory.  Finishing in fourth, just two points out of third and just two points ahead of Yale, were the Brown University Bears.  In addition to regatta awards, the All-American women's sailors for 2010-2011 were also announced at this banquet.  Yale's very own sophomore Claire Dennis received All-American honors while freshman Marlena Fauer and sophomore Emily Billing received honorable mentions. 

Tomorrow racing for the Coed Team Racing Nationals begins and many of Yale's women's sailors will also be competing in that event.  They are hoping for improved conditions from the women's event, but naturally they will have to cope with what nature provides.  Follow the results at the event website or even watch the racing from home at sailgroove.org.    

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity