Bulldogs One Step Closer to Defending National Title

Billing and Dennis raft up their laser radials to chat between races.
Billing and Dennis raft up their laser radials to chat between races.

Billing and Dennis Will Return to the Singlehanded Nationals

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – By finishing second and third this weekend at the New England Championships, Yale sailors Claire Dennis and Emily Billing have earned themselves a trip to Chicago, in early November, where 18 of the top female sailors in the country will race in the 2011 ICSA Women's Singlehanded National Championship.  For the two Yale juniors, this is not their first go-around.  In fact, last year, when the Nationals were in St. Petersburg, Fla., Dennis won the regatta and Billing took fourth. 

15 sailors from schools across the New England district came to compete in the Women's Singlehanded New England Championship at Yale this weekend.  The top five finishers, after 14 races, have now secured themselves berths at the national championship, which is scheduled to take place on the fifth and sixth of November.  In addition to the two qualifying spots taken by Bulldogs, a first place finish this weekend earned the Boston College Eagles a spot, while fourth and fifth place finishes earned two spots for the Brown Bears.

This weekend racers sailed on the Long Island Sound just outside of the cove in Branford, Conn. that shelters the McNay Family Sailing Center.  The Yale sailors competing in the regatta may have had a slight advantage considering that they practice at this venue four times a week.  However, this weekend the race course was slightly farther out in the sound than Yale typically ventures for practice.  Setting the course farther out provides competitors with more open-water conditions which generally involve steadier wind and bigger waves. 

As for the actual conditions this weekend, racers were faced with everything from 12 knot hiking conditions to light air with chop.  When talking to Dennis about the weekend, she remarked that "the choppy conditions were a lot like what [her] team [had] seen in practice during the past week".  According to her, the wind would start out relatively strong and form waves on the water, but as each day went on the wind strength would fade, leaving racers with less sail-power to fight through the chop that remained.  Getting experience in waves could be helpful though.  The venue where the nationals are to be held in Chicago is supposedly known for having big, wind-driven waves.

Although she did not qualify herself, Yale freshman Urska Kosir also deserves recognition for an impressive show of progress throughout the weekend that ultimately landed her in seventh place.  Kosir, an international student who is new to college sailing and less experienced with the laser radial rig, started the first half of Saturday with no single-digit finishes.  However, she eventually recorded four top-five finishes which boost her into the top half of the results.  Clearly, come this time next year, the past Laser 4.7 World Champion is likely to be seriously vying for a qualification spot.

While Kosir made her moves towards the top of the pack, Dennis and Billing raced in hot pursuit of the leader from Boston College, senior Anne Heager.  Heager finished second to Dennis at last year's nationals after a nail-biting final race in which Dennis edged out the Eagle by one point.  Dennis knows, though, that losing to Heager this weekend is not predictive of what will happen at the nationals.  Last year Dennis finished fifth at the New Englands and then went on to win the nationals.  All that mattered this weekend was qualifying. 

Now the singlehanded sailors have one month to prepare themselves for the first national championship on the college sailing calendar.  While practicing in lasers on a frequent basis, Billing and Dennis will also still be racing double-handed dinghies and traveling to regattas each weekend in order to hone their tactical skills.  By the time nationals rolls around, they will be that much more prepared. 

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity