May 31, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The No. 3 Bulldog coed sailing team will wrap up their season at the ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships hosted by No. 14 Stanford and St. Francis Yacht Club on June 1-3. The regatta, which will feature 18 of the top teams from around the nation, will allow the Bulldogs to build upon the competitive success that they have experienced all season.
The ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships should feature the toughest competition the Bulldogs have faced all year. Each of the 18 teams at the regatta competed at either the ICSA Eastern or Western Semifinal for the right to represent their schools at the ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships. The top nine teams from each of the two Semifinal events qualified for the National Championships. This is only the second year that a Semifinal format has been utilized; previously, conference championships solely determined the teams that would advance to the National Championships. The Semifinal format guarantees that more of the top competition will be in action at the National Championships than the previous qualifying system.
Despite the tough competition, the Bulldogs should be right in the mix and actually will be one of the favorites to win the title. While the Bulldogs have competed strongly since the Fall season, the team has really turned it on in the past few weeks. In the last fleet race outing for the Bulldogs, the ICSA Western National Semifinal, the Bulldogs showed that they are the team to beat by winning the regatta, edging out No. 2 Boston College in the final race. The strong performance at the Semifinal shows that the Bulldogs have the consistency and resiliency to compete at the highest levels of competition under lots of pressure.
The Bulldogs have also shown that they are still up to performing at a high level in team race competition. At the New England Team Race Championships, the Bulldogs took second, which allowed them to compete at the ICSA/APS Team Race National Championships, an event that they took fourth at on Sunday. In fleet racing, three boats from each school compete against three boats from another school at once.
The Dinghy National Championships will take place in FJs on the waters of San Francisco Bay. It is expected that the mornings will have relatively light winds that are fairly shifty, similar to the conditions that the Bulldogs experienced at the Western Semifinals. In the afternoons, San Francisco Bay typically has strong winds with large waves that are induced by strong current. These conditions should play into the team's hand because the McNay Family Sailing Center site, the Bulldogs' practice area, is one of the few open-ocean venues in college sailing, so the team is used to windy and wavy conditions.
Over the three days of competition, the team will compete in up to 18 races in both A and B divisions. Each race will include one boat from each of the other schools competing at the event. Each school fields both an A and B division boats, with A division competing against A division boats from other schools and B division competing against the B division boats from other schools. The objective is to have the lowest combined score between the A and B division boats, which sail around a set course, with a first-place finish worth one point, a second place, two points, and so on. Each point is critical, so the teams will try to keep mistakes to a minimum. Usually, an average finish of fifth or sixth is good enough to win the regatta, so the Bulldogs will not try to win each race, but instead have strong, conservative finishes in each and every race.
For junior captain Thomas Barrows, the ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships are a familiar event. Barrows won B division at the National Championships in 2007 as a freshman and took fifth in the division as a sophomore. This year, he will take over sailing in A division, as he has done all season. Freshman Joseph Morris will sail in B division for the team this year. While he is new to the National Championships, he has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with in college sailing. He won the B division title at the ICSA National Western Semifinal and was named the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) Rookie of the Year. Morris won the High School National Championships last year, so he is used to the pressure of a National Championship.
Last year, the Bulldogs took eighth at the ICSA/Gill Dinghy National Championships. In 2007, though, the team was even better, taking third. The Bulldogs have not won the National Championships since 1975.
Live coverage of the event through streaming and recorded videos and interviews is available here. As well, it is possible to follow the coverage live on the event blog, which is available here. Complete results are available here.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity