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Young Bulldogs Raring to Start the 2010-2011 Season

Claire Dennis and Heather May. (Photo by Lincoln Benedict)
Claire Dennis and Heather May. (Photo by Lincoln Benedict)

Bulldogs Extra Motivated for This Season

NEW HAVEN, Conn.- To say that the 2009-2010 Yale women's sailing season ended painfully would be an understatement. With no wind in Wisconsin for two straight heartbreaking days, the Bulldogs were never able to take to the water of Lake Mendota to prove that their sixth-place finish at the New England Championships, which only qualified them for the semifinals, was just a fluke.  While some hard feelings still reside in the hearts of the Bulldogs, rather than returning to that difficult end to 2009-2010, they are looking forward to an excellent season in which their time in the badger state will fade.

With the loss of skipper Sarah Lihan '10, the Bulldogs will have large shoes to fill. Their tall leader provided a guiding hand to the youngsters that made up the rest of the team last year. Without Lihan's guidance the Bulldogs will have to mature into experienced college sailors and leaders in a very short time. Although the majority of the experienced team is composed of sophomores and juniors, their experiences last year will allow them to step up to the plate and swing for the fences even though their clean-up hitter has graduated.

In the preseason poll just released, the Bulldogs are ranked 9th, only a few votes behind No. 7 Tufts and No. 8 Georgetown. While other teams such as No. 1 Boston College and No. 2 Brown have more experienced college competitors, the Bulldogs will return a great core from last year, as well as adding some incredible additions with the Class of 2014.

Sophomores Claire Dennis and Heather May will anchor the team. Being the top team at regattas is not a new spot for Dennis and May as during the spring 2010 season they often sailed in the top division when Lihan and senior Elizabeth Brim were team racing with the co-eds. This year, Dennis, the NEISA Rookie of the Year in 2009-2010, and May will surely use their experience last spring as they move up a division permanently. Although young, Dennis and May hope to build on their great finishes from last year and fully secure themselves as one of the top women's teams in A division this season. Dennis, who finished second at the Women's Singlehanded Nationals in 2009, will also look to have another successful campaign in the Laser Radial.

Also returning for the Bulldogs are juniors Genoa Warner and Stephanie Schuyler, a duo who found a lot of success in B division at major regattas last year. Warner and Schuyler are considered light air specialists due to their low weight.

The other mainstay skipper from last year's team, sophomore Emily Billing, will be without junior crew Margot Benedict for the fall season as she is studying abroad in Germany, but Billing looks to build on superb performances both in doublehanded and singlehanded racing in the fall and will be reunited with Benedict in the spring.

Two of the seniors on the team, captain Blair Belling and Elizabeth Brim, have seen a lot of national championship experience and will also provide guidance to the younger members even though they will primarily be sailing co-ed events. Both extremely experienced sailors, they will serve as excellent role models as well as teachers.

Other members of the team who are technically on the women's roster but will probably be sailing a majority of co-ed events are seniors Tatyana Camejo and Alexa Chu, junior Isabel Elliman, and sophomores Senem Cilingiroglu, Juliana Hanle and Grace Zimmerly. As the season progresses, it will become clearer which pairings will be sailing coed events and which will be sailing both coed's and women's events.

New additions to the Bulldogs include Eugenia Custo Greig, Marlena Fauer, Amanda Salvesen, Maddy Yozwiak and Anna Han. Fauer was named to the 2010 US Development Team as a skipper in the 420 class while Salvesen was part of the 2008 National High School Doublehanded Championship team as a crew for junior Joseph Morris. All of the new additions to the team will be important contributors to a team who lost a core group of talented sailors to graduation in 2010. The team will also expand as walk-ons join the team throughout the fall.

Although young, the Bulldogs have both the drive and the spirit required of a top-notch team to put them in contention for the National Championship in 2011 at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. While seen by many as underdogs, the Bulldogs will not go out without fight, as they fully embrace the personality of their mascot.

Report filed by Margot Benedict '12, Yale Sports Publicity