No. 4 Bulldogs Win ICSA Western Semifinal

Thomas Barrows and Blair Belling. (Photo by Jan's Marine Photography)
Thomas Barrows and Blair Belling. (Photo by Jan's Marine Photography)

Team Punches Ticket to National Championship in Wisconsin

NEW HAVEN, Conn – For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs have won their semifinal championship, bringing them one step closer to a national championship crown.  Yale edged St. Mary's College by two points after ten races to cement the victory and assure them a place at the ICSA/Gill Co-ed Dinghy National Championship at the University of Wisconsin.  The Bulldogs also competed at the George Morris Trophy at Boston University and Southern Series Seven at Salve Regina. 

College sailing is divided into seven districts.  For many years, each district would receive a specific allotment of berths at the national championship.  Recently, however, a semifinal round has been introduced to improve competition at the national championship.  Now, instead of qualifying for nationals, the top eight finishers at the New England Championship transfer to one of two concurrent semifinal rounds.  From this point forward, geography does not matter.  The top nine teams at each semifinal will move on to form the eighteen-boat fleet for the national championship.

The Bulldogs are the defending Western semifinal champions, and, after finishing second two weeks ago at the New England Championship, earned the right to defend their title.  On Thursday, the team flew to Seattle, Wash., to prepare for the event.  Yale was represented in A division by senior skipper Thomas Barrows and crews Blair Belling, a junior, and Michael Hession, a senior.  In B division, sophomore Joseph Morris skippered for senior Marla Menninger. 

Saturday proved to be a tough day for the race committee.  Though the first A-division race appeared promising with an eight-knot breeze, it began to die in the second race.  Two B division races were completed in light winds before racing was abandoned for the day.  Both divisions began the regatta in commanding fashion, posting wins in the first race of each set.  Sunday was a much friendlier day, with at 6-10 knot southerly.  Each division completed eight more races.  Barrows and Belling finished in the top five in an impressive seven of the eight races sailed.  Menninger and Morris performed strongly as well, with four finishes in the top five on Sunday.  In a testament to the truly team nature of college sailing, Yale finished second in both divisions, yet won the regatta overall. 

The Bulldogs also raced closer to home this weekend.  For the fourth week in a row, Yale raced at Boston University on the Charles River.  The river did not disappoint, greeting sailors with light and shifty breezes on Saturday.  In A division, senior John Vrolyk and sophomore Isabel Elliman remained in the hunt all day with three top ten finishes.  In B division, freshman Rafael Fernandez, often a crew for the Bulldogs, tried his hand at the helm with junior Alexa Chu as a crew.  He had a top finish of 11th. Sunday was equally dismal and sailors waited under postponement for nearly two hours.  When racing finally began, Vrolyk and Elliman ripped off a seventh and a fifth in difficult conditions.  Personal schedules required Fernandez and junior Andrew Kurzrok to split the weekend in B division, with Chu remaining as a crew.  The pair recorded a sixth and a fourth in similar conditions.  The late hour only allowed one more race per division, and though Vrolyk powerfully won the start in the last race of his last collegiate sailing career, an unfavorable shift shuffled him back to 11th at the finish.  As the breeze continued to shift and weaken, Kurzrok and Chu sailed one more race to another fourth place.  The Bulldogs finished 11th overall.

A second set of New England-based Elis raced at Salve Regina on Saturday.  Excellent conditions greeted the nine teams that showed up for the event, which was sailed in combined divisions.  Though Yale had originally planned to send different groups of sailors to each day of the event, the weather allowed the regatta to be completed in just one day.  Junior Nathan Stevens and freshman Grace Zimmerly finished eighth in the combined scoring, and freshman Zachary Foreman and sophomore Caroline Elenowitz finished fourteenth overall.

Next week, the Bulldogs will look to qualify for the ICSA Team Racing National Championship with a strong showing at the Fowle Trophy, the New England Team Race Championship. 

Report by Andrew Kurzrok '11, Yale Sports Publicity