March 22, 2012

Women’s Team Race at Tufts This Weekend

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Team racing, as opposed to fleet racing, is a more action-packed, tournament style of sailboat racing.  This weekend, the Yale women's sailing team, now ranked No. 2 in the nation, is headed to race in the Duplin Trophy Team Race Regatta, hosted by Tufts University.  While team race regattas are prevalent on the coed ICSA spring calendar, this is the one women-only team race of the year.    

Rather than 20 boats from different schools all competing to be the first to finish; in team racing, three boats from one school go head-to-head against three boats from another.  At the end of the race, the winning team is the team with the least points after combining its three boats' individual finishes.  This gets interesting when you realize that finishing in a winning combination means actively ensuring that the opposing team finishes in a losing combination.  A sharp and confident understanding of the racing rules of sailing is required to succeed in team racing because often sailors find themselves in one-on-one battles with opposing boats as they try to help their respective teammates.  The race becomes a game of offensive and defensive strategy because one team will lockdown a winning combination and try to defend it while the other team tries to unbalance and break the combination before the finish line. 

Team depth is extremely important, even more so than in fleet racing, because each school has to have three strong pairs of skippers and crews, whereas in fleet racing there are only two boats racing (in separate divisions) per team.  That said, Yale has reason to feel advantaged.  Every weekend the team sends a different group of sailors to race at the week's major interconference regatta and every weekend Yale finishes near the top.  The team is yet to finish outside of the top five in any regatta yet this year and , until this week, the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the nation.  This weekend they hope to regain that top spot by showing the coaching polls how deep and versatile their team is. 

While this is the only team race regatta of the year on the women's collegiate sailing calendar, the ICSA coed spring season calendar is dominated by team race events.  In fact, there is a whole separate national championship for team racing in the coed division.  As a result, the Yale women's sailing team, which practices in conjunction with the coed team, spends a fair amount of time team racing in practice.  This is not only to the benefit of the coed team though.   Team racing is also generally good practice for skipper-crew teamwork and handling boat-to-boat situations.

Over the spring break, the Yale sailing team, women's and coed teams combined, got the opportunity to practice team racing against some of the best players in the game.  Yale alumni Thomas Barrows '09, Zachary Brown '08, Molly Carapiet '06, Abigail Coplin '08, Michael Hession '09, Stuart McNay '05 and Emmet Smith '09 all donated their time to spend a weekend in St. Petersburg, Fla., practicing team racing with the current undergraduates.  During their own time as undergraduates, all of these alums helped Yale make it to the nationals in team racing.  In addition, Barrows, Brown, Hession, McNay and Smith joined forces to win the Hinman Trophy at the US Team Racing Championship in 2010.    

The Lady Bulldogs should feel prepared to take on the competition at the Duplin Trophy this weekend as they have one of the deepest teams and have team raced against some of the best competition in the world.  In the end though, it will truly come down to how well the Yale boats can work together.  Representing the Bulldogs this weekend will be junior skipper Claire Dennis in a boat with senior crew Margot Benedict, junior skipper Emily Billing in a boat with sophomore crew Amanda Salvesen and freshman skipper Morgan Kiss in a boat with sophomore crew Anna Han.

In addition to team racing instead of fleet racing, the Bulldogs will also be racing in Tufts' fleet of Larks rather than the standard FJs or 420s.  Larks are high-performance double-handed dinghies that are well-suited to the light and variable conditions on Mystic Lake where Tufts practices and hosts its regattas.  The Duplin will be run in a round-robin format so that each team races against all of the others an equal number of times.  The team with the best win-loss record at the end of the weekend wins.  Ties are broken by sail-offs if time permits.   

Report filed by Chris Segerblom '14, Yale Sports Publicity