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No. 5 Bulldogs Win ICSA National Western Semifinal

Joe Morris and Grace Becton.
Joe Morris and Grace Becton.

May 3, 2009

ICSA Western Semifinal Results

BU Trophy Final Results

BOSTON, Mass. - The No. 5 Bulldog coed sailing team showed that they were ready to take on the nation's best teams in fleet racing this weekend by winning the ICSA National Western Semifinal hosted by No. 8 Harvard on Saturday and Sunday. The Bulldogs, who edged out No. 1 Boston College for the win, qualified for their third consecutive ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championship with their performance. The team also competed at the BU Trophy hosted by No. 13 Boston University on Saturday and Sunday.

The ICSA National Western Semifinal brought 18 of the top teams in the nation to Boston's Inner Harbor at Fan Pier to face off against each other in FJs. The teams, each of which qualified for the Western Semifinal based upon their finishes at their conference championships, were all hoping to do well enough at the regatta to earn their ticket to the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championships to be hosted by No. 13 Stanford on June 1-3. The top nine teams from the Western Semifinal earned spots to the National Championships, which will also include the top nine teams from the Eastern Semifinal, which was hosted concurrently at the same location by MIT.

The conditions at the venue were tricky on both days, with light wind and frequent shifts creating tough conditions for all the sailors involved. As well, strong current meant that it was critical to assess the current situation and change the game plan accordingly, including adjusting laylines and taking the impact into account at both the starts and mark roundings. Because of the tough conditions, only eight races were completed in both A and B divisions over the two days of competition. In the normal college regatta, the goal is to complete the same number of races as the number of teams competed, so 10 fewer races were completed than were aimed for.

The Bulldogs did not let this hold them back, though, capturing the regatta title by the narrowest of margins. The team came away with the win by scoring 64 points over the eight races in each division, only one point better than Boston College. The nail biter of a regatta was not decided until the final race of the day, with the Bulldogs finishing off with a fourth in the final race. To keep excitement high during the regatta, the regatta had B division sail first followed by A division, the opposite of most regattas. Entering the last race of the day, the Bulldogs had a three-point lead on the Eagles, who took second in the final race of the day, compared with a fourth by the Bulldogs. The one point difference allowed the Bulldogs to carry home their first title from the Semifinal competition. Last year, the Bulldogs took second at the first-ever ICSA Semifinal.

While both divisions of competition sailed strongly for the Bulldogs, the B division duo of freshman Joseph Morris and senior Grace Becton again showed that they are the team to beat. They captured the B division title by earning 24 points over the eight races. Their average of a three in each race was incredibly impressive considering the tough conditions. The duo only finished outside of the top five in one race, the final race of the day, in which they took sixth. They had four second-place finishes. Boston College's Adam Roberts and Carrie Amarante were second with 33 points. Roberts and Amarante sailed an outstanding regatta, never finishing outside the top three, but withdrew from one race following competition because they failed to fully complete a penalty turn.

Morris was very pleased with the performance and thought that there was good sportsmanship at the regatta.

"As a team, I think that we did extremely well," Morris said. "The conditions were extremely hard, but we did well by staying consistent. We just kept plugging away in the races and ended up beating Boston College. It is always a nice feeling to beat the top-ranked team in the nation. Even though we ended up winning our division and overall, Boston College sailed fantastically. Adam Roberts withdrew from the final race without even being protested, which was an incredible display of sportsmanship on his part. The fact that withdrawing cost his team the regatta, which he and the team were doing phenomenally at, is really testament to his character."

Morris thinks that the one of the factors to his success was his partner, but believes he and Becton still have some more work to do.

"Grace [Becton] was the best crew in my division by a mile," Morris said. "She was perfect the entire weekend and never made a single mistake. This played a huge role in us doing so well, but I think we still have some more work to do. We have been working hard all year and have been resilient, coming back from tough situations."

The Bulldogs also turned in an impressive performance in A division, where they were led by junior captain Thomas Barrows and sophomore Blair Belling. The duo took second in A division with 40 points, only eight behind Boston College. Five of their eight races were in the top five and they won the second race of the regatta. They really turned it on in the closing races, when they were fighting Boston College for the overall title, by taking a second in the seventh race and a fourth in the eighth race.

Barrows found the conditions tough, but tried to stay consistent throughout the weekend.

"The wind was light, incredibly shifty and puffy," Barrows said. "You could be sailing directly behind someone and be on a different tack than them, which I have never seen before. We both tried to stay consistent in all of our races by getting good starts. Being conservative did not mean that we sailed up the middle, but instead we tried to win our side of the course. We also had to know when our side wouldn't work and then consolidate. Current was a big factor this weekend and we did a good job at recognizing it and how it impacted the laylines. There were only four races in each division both days, which is a lot less than most regattas, so each one counted a lot."

Besides tough competition, the Bulldogs were also able to compete in the shadow of the Volvo 70s, which were on land at Fan Pier. The Volvo 70s are taking part in the Volvo Ocean Race, a 37,000 mile around the world race. The only stop in North America was in Boston at the venue of the Semifinals. As a result, thousands of spectators were on hand to watch the racing, in addition to checking out the boats and other attractions at the venue.

The team will now move on to the ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championships. The Championships should be extremely competitive, with only one of the teams that qualified for the Championships not being ranked in the top 20 nationally.

Next up for the Bulldogs is the New England Team Race Championships for the Fowle Trophy. The Bulldogs need to compete well at the event to have a chance at qualifying for the ICSA/APS Team Racing National Championship.

Morris believes competition at the qualifying regatta will be tough.

"Team racing will be a totally different game for us next weekend," Morris said. "NEISA [New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association, the conference the Bulldogs compete in] is a very competitive district and the best at team racing. There are probably five teams in NEISA that are capable of winning nationals and only three get to go on. It will be tough, but we are going to be working hard though exams and will be practicing and hope to qualify."

The Bulldogs also competed strongly, taking fourth place, at the BU Trophy hosted by Boston University on the Charles River in FJs. The regatta, which was the final fleet race regatta of the season for the teams that did not qualify for the ICSA National Semifinals, included some tough competition. A number of teams sent their top coed squads while other teams used the regatta as a tune up for the ICSA Women's National Championship by sending their women's teams.

The conditions at the Charles River venue were very tricky. On Saturday, there was light wind that was puffy that came from the west. The wind shifted erratically with frequent wind shears. It was critical to stay in phase on both the up and downwind legs because there were significant angle differences across the course. At the same time, it was important not to take too many risks by going to an extreme side of the course because there were frequent wind shears. On Sunday, the wind was again light, but came from the east. This wind was characterized by larger, more predictable shifts. While staying in phase was again important, there were significant velocity differences across the course, so it was critical always to be looking around before and during the races in an attempt to predict where there was more pressure and a better angle to the next mark.

The Bulldogs did a good job adjusting to the tough conditions though, ending the regatta with a fourth-place finish with 94 points over the nine races in each division. The fourth-place finish is the best result for the Bulldogs at the regatta in more than a decade. Last year, the Bulldogs took sixth, their best finish since 2004, when they also took sixth. The team last won the regatta, which is in its 61st year, in 1971.

The Bulldogs were led by the second-place finish in B division by seniors skipper Caleb Dorfman and crew Emmet Smith. After getting off to a rough start on Saturday, the duo sailed incredibly well on Sunday to score 43 points over the nine races. Only 12 of those points came from the five races they sailed on Sunday. The duo had six top five finishes overall, including no finish worse than fourth on the second day of racing. The duo finished their collegiate career sailing together in a strong fashion, winning the final race of the regatta, which was also the last race of the year in NEISA sailing. Prior to the final race, the wind died, before proceeding to shift 180 degrees two times before finally filling in from a direction that had not been seen in the regatta before. The team quickly adapted to the new breeze, winning the pin because the left side of the course seemed to have more wind. The left side paid off and the duo rounded every mark in first to cap off their college careers on a high note. They also won the fifth race of the event. The pair had the best performance by any team in their division during Sunday's competition. Dorfman was seventh in B division at the event last year.

Senior skipper Kate Hagemann and junior crew Rebecca Jackson also turned in a solid performance at the event, taking fourth in A division with 51 points. For Hagemann and Jackson, the event was a good opportunity to race one more time before they compete at the ICSA Women's National Championships in San Francisco on May 25-27. The duo had a very strong and consistent day in tricky conditions on Saturday. The duo only finished outside the top four in one race on Saturday, a remarkable feat considering the erratic nature of the wind shifts. While the pair had a tough start to the day on Sunday, they finished strongly, with a third-place finish. Overall, the duo placed in the top five in six of the nine races. They were in third in A division after the first day of racing.

The Bulldogs are next in action on Saturday and Sunday at the New England Team Race Championships for the Fowle Trophy hosted by Roger Williams.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity