November 2, 2009

No. 1 Bulldogs Win Erwin Schell Trophy

First Win At Event Since 1976

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The Bulldogs continued their impressive domination of the fall season with a win this weekend at the 69th Erwin Schell Trophy at MIT.  The Bulldogs persevered through wild conditions on Saturday to bring home the victory after a come-from-behind final set.  The weather wreaked havoc on the Bulldogs' other events -- Team Race Series Two by Roger Williams University, the Nickerson Trophy by Boston University and the Providence College Invite.

Saturday brought monstrous breeze to Boston's Charles River.  According to the regatta report, the 20-30 knot breeze "resulted in swimming, a few breakdowns, and several protests."  Senior Thomas Barrows began the event with fellow senior Marla Menninger.  Through the first 10 races, Barrows was skippering a Tech Dinghy, MIT's unique brand of single-sailed dinghy.  After race four, however, freshman Rafael Fernandez replaced Menninger due to the ever-strengthening breeze.  When Barrows switched to the FJ for the final two races of the day, Menninger returned to action.  In B division, sophomore Joe Morris sailed through most of Saturday in an FJ with senior Mike Hession.  At the FJ/Tech swap after race 10, Fernandez switched divisions and crewed for Morris. 

Both the FJs and the Techs were on the water at the same time, creating the potential for large traffic jams as the fleets crossed each other.  To combat this, MIT ran a combination of windward-leewards and Harry Andersons.  The Anderson, named for Harry H. Anderson Jr.  '43, has three reaching legs, which are angled approximately 135 degrees away from the wind direction. 

According to Morris, "It was really gnarley.  There were a few puffs in the upper 20's at least-we had both sails totally luffing.  On top of that, there were 20-35 degree shifts to watch out for."
If Saturday was the weekend's lion, Sunday would prove to be the lamb.  A difficult five to eight knot northerly blew off the shores of Cambridge, Mass. and made conditions, according to the report, "puffy, shifty, and streaky."  Roger Williams University had sailed strongly all weekend, and appeared headed for the victory.  However, the Bulldogs, with junior Blair Belling now crewing for Barrows and Menninger crewing for Morris, provided a weekend upset. 

"We had very little information," said Morris.  "We only knew that we were well behind Roger Williams, a few behind Boston College, and had Harvard right behind us." 

"We went out and Thomas sailed two really solid races, and we were able to do the same in B, while Roger Williams had a really tough last set."

Going into the last set, Roger Williams was ahead of Yale by a seemingly insurmountable margin, with 222 points to the Bulldogs' 251. Barrows and Belling were able to finish fourth and first in their final two races, while Morris and Menninger turned in fourth and second place performances.  Unfortunately, Roger Williams finished with three twelfths and an eighteenth, allowing the Bulldogs to squeak by. 

Even Morris was not expecting the victory.

"Pretty surprising considering we thought we were out of contention for the win," he said.

The Schell trophy, named for MIT Professor Erwin Schell, is known as the unofficial NEISA fall championship.  The top seven finishers at the event earn the right to represent NEISA at the Atlantic Coast Championship in two week's time.  The last time the Bulldogs won the event was 1976, led by Steve Benjamin '77 and Dave Perry '77.  

A team of Bulldog team racers also found success this weekend, winning Team Race Series Two at Roger Williams University.  The Sunday event began in light breezes which quickly steadied as 6-10 knots.  Nine of Yale's  10 scheduled races were sailed before the wind stagnated and racing was abandoned for the day.  Because the 10 races were divided into two five-race rotations, the second, incomplete rotation was not included in the final scores.  Yale finished the day 4-1, but a post-race protest hearing between Tufts and Roger Williams allowed the Bulldogs to leapfrog Roger Williams and finish the day in first place.  Sailing for the Bulldogs were senior John Vrolyk, juniors Alexa Chu and Andrew Kurzrok and sophomores Margot Benedict, Isabel Elliman and Rob Struckett.

Back in Boston, a team of freshman sailors was competing at the Nickerson Trophy at Boston University.  The Nickerson Trophy is the New England freshman championship.  In A division Emily Billing, Rafael Fernandez -- his duties at the Schell Trophy completed  -- and Grace Zimmerly sailed to a 12th place finish.  In B Division, Zachary Foreman and Senem Cilingiroglu finished in 17th.  The regatta saw many of the same conditions as the Schell Trophy, making the Boston University FJs extremely difficult to handle.

Four Yale sailors also travelled to a Saturday invite event at Providence College.  In a surprising adjective choice, the regatta report billed the event as a "muddy, windy day at Rhode Island Yacht Club."  The mud was from the bottom of Narragansett Bay, and many boats found their masts stuck in it after capsizing.  With a small craft advisory in effect, the event was called after two races per division.  In A division, Vrolyk and Elliman finished fourth with seven points.  Sophomore Chris Ell paired with Chu to finish 11th in B division with 24 points.

Next week skipper Thomas Barrows will go Laser racing and compete in the Men's Singlehanded National Championship in Corpus Christi, Tex.

report by Andrew Kurzrok '11, Yale Sports Publicity

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