Sailing team has stellar weekend

by Emily Wechsler | 4/30/15 7:31pm

The coed and women’s sailing teams are finishing their regular seasons in strong form after posting some of their best finishes of the spring last weekend. The women’s team qualified for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association College Sailing Women’s National Semifinal by placing sixth out of 16 at the New England ICSA Women’s Championship — Reed Trophy.

The coed team, which will compete in its national qualifier this weekend, raced in three regattas and earned two second-place finishes and one first-place finish.

“The women’s New England Championship was the event with the most on the line,” head coach Justin Assad said. “The girls sailed well there.”

The women, reigning two-time national champions, had to finish in the top eight at the Reed Trophy at Boston College in order to earn a bid to nationals.

Deirdre Lambert ’15 and Lizzie Guynn ’16 started the event strong for the team, winning the first race as the A-division squad. The B-division team of captain Sarah Williams ’16 and Hope Wilson ’16 struggled, guiding their Z420 to 12th out of 16 B-division boats in the first race.

Saturday’s conditions were shifty, with wind ranging from three to 10 knots northwest, making for difficult sailing conditions. Ten of the races were completed Saturday, and five more were run on Sunday for each division. Margaret Kilvert ’18 stepped into the B-division boat for the last two races of the day Saturday, and Julia McKown ’17 took over crewing for Wilson in the lighter Sunday wind.

The team was in eighth place going into racing Sunday and was nervous about securing a bid to nationals, Williams said.

“We were pretty down to the wire,” she said. “For us, it was definitely stressful. We didn’t know how many races we would get off, so were just trying to do the best we could in every race. Our coach just told us to go out and all you can really do is sail the best race you can.”

After moving around in the rankings and spending much of Sunday in sixth place, Williams said, their coach reminded them to keep an eye on the two boats that were near them in the rankings.

“We started playing a little bit more strategically, just to make sure — at the end of the day, the biggest goal was just to qualify, and we have a lot of time in the next month to keep practicing,” Williams said.

In the end, Lambert and Guynn took second in the A-division at the end of the 15 races, and the B-division team took 11th after losing the tie-breaker with University of Rhode Island, contributing to Dartmouth’s overall final ranking of sixth.

On the coed side, the Big Green had even more success. At the 80th running of the Boston Dinghy Cup, Dartmouth took second. The race, hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Charles River, featured three divisions, all sailing FJs.

“Saturday was pretty typical river sailing conditions. The river can be kind of wacky at times in terms of the wind, with the breeze constantly shifting, but I think we handled that pretty well,” Scott Houck ’15 said. “We managed to get some pretty consistent results.”

Houck sailed in the A-division with Mia Steck ’17 and placed seventh, while Dartmouth’s B- and C-division sailors took fifth and fourth, respectively.

The second day was less windy, requiring a delayed start to wait for the wind to pick up. Only two races got off, but they were enough for Dartmouth to secure second place overall, two points above Tufts University and nine behind Stanford University.

“We sailed really well, almost won the regatta,” Assad said.

Sailing 420s crewed entirely by freshmen, Dartmouth won the Greater New York Dinghy Regatta, hosted by Fordham University, for the second time in five years. Only six races were sailed in each division as the wind died early both days. After starting the competition with a fourth-place finish, Dartmouth took the lead at race 4A and held it for the remainder of the weekend.

Erik Weis ’18 and Connor Lehan ’18 took fourth in division A, winning one race outright, and Nathaniel Johansson ’18 and Caroline Lauer ’18 took first in division B, winning two races and finishing in the top three in all but one.

“They had an awesome weekend together,” Williams said.

Four sailors also competed at the George Morris Trophy hosted by Boston University. Dartmouth took second overall, with the A-division team of Robert Floyd ’17 and John Lewis ’17 taking third and the B-division team of Duncan Williford ’18 and Nathaniel Greason ’17 taking second.

Though Dartmouth did well by taking second, they finished a full 27 points behind the University of Vermont Catamounts after competing in just eight races per division. Most races Sunday were ended due to fading wind.

“We had some really successful finishes. Overall it was a great weekend,” Williams said. “When we’re at this point in our spring season when a lot of other teams have more time on the water than us, we use every weekend competition as practice, and we’re just constantly trying to get better. It’s not always about scores.”

The team will go onto the water early before a race to practice boat handling maneuvers, Williams said.

The sailing program is currently seeing its first full week of sailing at home, as Mascoma Lake was too frozen to sail until last Friday. The team had traveled several times to Boston to sail earlier in the year.

This weekend the coed program will be the focus as it prepares to travel to the Coed New England Dinghy Championship at Salve Regina University.

“We’re still trying to get back into the swing of things on our own lake, working on boat handling, working on starts, really work on everything to make up for lost time,” Houck said.

The team was disappointed earlier in April not to have qualified for the ICSA Team Race Championships, despite preparation, Assad said.

Williams said that, for now, the women’s team will launch into training, hoping for success at nationals but taking things “one day at a time.”

The team graduated excellent sailors in both its 2013 and 2014 classes, but Assad said he hopes that with three to four weeks of training ahead, the team can do well in the postseason.

The team placed eighth in the Gill National Championship Finals last season. Both of the team’s A division coed sailors, Matt Wefer ’14 and Avery Plough ’14, graduated last season. Their absence leaves the Big Green with a difficult challenge to surmount this weekend.

The team next sails this weekend at the Coed New England Dinghy Championship in Newport, Rhode Island.