April 5, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The No. 3 Bulldog coed sailing team battled strong wind, shifty breeze and tough competition to place third at the Southern New England Team Race hosted by Coast Guard and Connecticut College on Saturday and Sunday. The third-place finish by the Bulldogs at the event is the best result for the team since they won the event in 2006. The team also hosted the Ferrarone Team Race Intersectional at the McNay Family Sailing Center.
The Southern New England Team Race featured some of the top competition in the nation in team racing, but the Bulldogs showed that they are a force to be reckoned with in the discipline. Of the 18 teams that were competing at the event, 16 were ranked in the top 20 nationally, including nine of the top 10 teams in the nation.
Team racing, as distinct from fleet racing, requires greater team depth and communication among team mates. In team racing, three boats from each school race against three boats from another school in a competition to see which team can have the best overall finish for all of its boats. With the first boat across the line earning one point, the second two points, and so on, the teams seek to score 10 or less total points in the races. The races take place on the Digital N course, which consists of an upwind leg, a reach leg, a downwind leg and a final upwind leg. On each leg, the team tries to make sure that their team is in a winning combination against the other team. This entails the three boats from each school constantly helping each other out when teammates fall behind. As a result, the boats on the team need to focus on going fast against the opponent that they are focused on covering as well as paying attention to what is occurring to their teammates on the other parts of the course. In the case that an opponent is putting a teammate in a tough position to recover from, another teammate can come to the rescue and help free their teammate by slowing the opponent down by luffing their sails or by pinning the opponent from tacking while allowing their teammate to tack out. The team also has the ability to create winning combinations by creating opportunities to move teammates up in the race at the marks.
The Bulldogs showed that they are very strong at communication and have strong course awareness this weekend by taking third at the regatta. On Saturday, the Bulldogs competed in a qualifying round robin of nine teams at Coast Guard, with the top five teams from both the Coast Guard and Connecticut College venues qualifying for the Gold round robin. The Bulldogs were strong in the qualifying round, going 7-1 and earning the top place in their bracket.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs also performed strongly in the Gold round robin at Coast Guard, earning a record of 6-3, good enough for third place. No. 4 St. Mary's College of Maryland also had a 6-3 record in the finals, but the Bulldogs lost the tie-breaker to Seahawks. No. 2 Boston College won the event with an 8-1 record on the final day.
Junior captain Thomas Barrows was pleased with the racing and believes that the team can do even better.
"I think that the racing went pretty well," Barrows said. "All of the mistakes we made were pretty minor and all the races were winnable. We had many chances to win our final race against St. Mary's, but we just were not able to execute."
The conditions were very tough on both days of competition, with some of the strongest wind the team has team raced in. On Saturday, the wind was very puffy and shifty, coming over the land at Coast Guard. The breeze was between 15 and 25 knots in the largest puffs, but the wind was not steady, with many very large lulls. On Sunday, the breeze was consistently windier, with the wind still coming partially over the land and partially down the Thames River venue, which gave the wind time to build up. Because of the very strong wind and frequent shifts, boats frequently capsized. The strong winds also necessitated the team using heavy air sailing combinations. Over the weekend, Barrows, junior John Kempton and freshmen Cameron Cullman and Joseph Morris all skippered. The crews for the Bulldogs were Morris, seniors Grace Becton, Adriane Levin and Emmet Smith, junior Michael Hession and sophomore Blair Belling.
Barrows thought that the windy conditions made the sailing complicated and made some team racing tactics, such as slowing the opponents, more difficult.
"It was tricky wind all weekend," Barrows said. "Saturday, we saw up and down shifty wind, which made it hard to break away with stable combinations to win. I felt that the team did a good job in the conditions, though. On Sunday, the wind was more consistent. Since the wind was so shifty and up and down, it was often not straight forward what to do. You had to be very disciplined and it was not that easy to balance because bad air does not have as large of an impact when it is windy as when there is lighter wind."
The third-place finish is the best finish by the Bulldogs since they won the event in 2006. The team took fourth last year and fifth in 2007.
The Bulldogs also hosted the Ferrarone Team Race Intersectional at the McNay Family Sailing Center. The event featured teams from four of the collegiate sailing districts and honors Ted Ferrarone '98, who was instrumental in founding the event. The Bulldogs struggled at the event, taking tenth, after being in eighth after the first day of competition. No. 19 Boston University won the regatta. The Bulldogs had the same record as Penn, but lost on a tie-breaker.
The Bulldogs, who sailed in 420s at the event, faced some of the strongest winds that college sailing has seen in the past few years. On Saturday, the wind came from over the hills next to the McNay Family Sailing Center. As a result, the wind was very shifty and inconsistent in strength, and did not give a home water advantage to the Bulldogs because the venue very rarely sees wind from the West. The wind built as the day went on, with puffs of 35 knots being recorded, with the possibility of even higher puffs existing on other parts of the course. Yet, at the same time, the conditions were very tough because the wind was so variable. The sailors would be sailing in all-out hiking conditions with both sails luffing in order to not flip before the wind would die to less than five knots only seconds later. This made the conditions very tough, as the sailors would constantly have to be quick at noticing velocity changes as well as dealing with the large shifts that would occasionally cause the boats to autotack. As well, the strong, variable winds caused there to be a premium on starting, which the Bulldogs struggled with during the weekend. This made it tough for the Bulldogs to do well because the wind conditions made it hard to catch up to boats that got ahead at the start. It was also frequent to see boats capsizing on Saturday, with more than 30 capsizes during the racing. In one race, three boats were flipped at the same time, so the race turned more into a race not of the fastest sailors, but which team could right their boat and start sailing again first. On Sunday, the wind was still windy and shifty, but not to the extreme that there was on Saturday. The Bulldogs sailed in the Silver round robin on Sunday since they did not qualify for the Gold round robin.
Because of the strong wind, the Bulldogs used a wide variety of sailors at the event. Skippering for the Bulldogs were senior Caleb Dorfman, sophomore Andrew Kurzrok and freshman Rob Struckett. Crewing for the Bulldogs were junior John Vrolyk, sophomore Alexa Chu and freshmen Alexandra Kerr, Stephanie Schuyler and Jared Shenson.
Struckett enjoyed the racing and conditions, but felt that the team can certainly do better.
"We had a lot of fun in the big breeze because it was so fun to go fast, especially on the reaches," Struckett said. "We enjoyed the races that we were competitive in, but the conditions made it tough for us. We were close in a lot of races, but had trouble at points. We were a little unorganized as a team as we have never sailed together before. We had trouble getting off the line, but when we actually got into boat-on-boat situations, we did very well."
The Bulldogs are next in competition on Saturday and Sunday at the Marchiando and Friis Team Race, the Admiral Alymers Trophy and Southern Series Four.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity