June 2, 2009

No. 3 Bulldogs Third After First Day of ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy Nationals

June 1, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - The No. 3 Bulldog coed sailing team got off to a strong start at the ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championships on Monday. The Bulldogs, one of 18 teams in competition at the event hosted by No. 14 Stanford and St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, currently sit in third with two days of racing remaining.

The ICSA/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championships are the pinnacle of college sailing, with all of the top teams in the nation in competition at the event. Of the six national championships sponsored by the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA), the national governing body of collegiate sailing, the Coed Dinghy National Championships is the oldest and most prestigious. The Bulldogs have done strongly at the Championships in the past, taking third in 2007, but have not captured the national title since 1975.

In the first day of competition, the Bulldogs showed that they are ready to turn in another strong performance at the National Championships. The breeze started off light to moderate in the morning, before building as the day went on. The current started off going against the wind, causing the right side of the course to be favored because of the stronger current and more wind that helped push the boats upwind. As the day went on, the current switched, with the left side of the course becoming favored. This meant that boats began to fight for control of the left side of the course, creating great spectating because the boats would sail up to the breakwater for current relief on the upwind legs, putting the boats just feet away from the teams that were not sailing, who sat on the breakwater. Frequently, many boats would converge on the left at the same time, creating many very close crossing and ducking situations. It was critical for the competitors to pay attention to the current, wind, and race course congestion a the same time in order to decide where to sail on the course. At times, parts of the course with more adverse current featured more wind, so it was hard for the competitors where to decide to sail. As well, there were frequent wind shifts, so staying in phase was important.

The Bulldogs got the day started off in the strongest possible manner. In A division, junior captain Thomas Barrows and sophomore crew Blair Belling won the first race of the day. Because of the strong current and excitement over the start of racing, the first start was a general recall. In the second start, the Bulldogs started off with a fair start, rounding the windward mark in sixth place after sailing very fast upwind. It was the downwind, though, where the Bulldogs really made their mark. After rounding the offset mark, the Bulldogs chose to go farther to the right side of the course than most of the other teams. This gave the Bulldogs both more wind and clean air, allowing the team to utilize their impressive downwind speed to move up into first place by the gate mark. From here, the Bulldogs never looked back, capturing the first race of the regatta.

The second race of the regatta brought another victory for the Bulldogs. Coming on the heels of a win in the first race, the Bulldogs had confidence. Barrows and Belling started at the pin in the second start, perfectly timing their approach. Then, just seconds after the gun, the duo was able to tack and cross the fleet, putting the team into first place. From there, they used their top-notch up and downwind speed to hold on to the lead and capture the second race of the day.

The team went on to race in six more races, only failing to finish in the top three in three races. Barrows, along with Belling and crew junior Marla Menninger, currently sit in second with 38 points after the first day of competition. No. 4 St. Mary's College of Maryland currently leads A division with 26 points.

The Bulldog duo of freshman skipper Joseph Morris and junior crew Michael Hession also had a strong first day of competition. The duo has sailed consistently, having only one finish outside the top half. They currently sit in fifth with 58 points after eight races, the same number of points as the team in fourth.

Competition will resume on Tuesday morning. Six races are scheduled in both A and B divisions, with a further four races planned for Wednesday.

Live coverage of the event through interviews is available here. As well, it is possible to follow the coverage live on the event blog, which is available here. Complete results and the ability to send notes to the competing teams is available here.

Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity