Big Green sails to gritty comeback

by Jon Kling | 5/31/06 5:00am

While the women's sailors from the College of Charleston may have taken home the championship in this year's Women's Dinghy National Championships, the Big Green ladies proved their mettle, overcoming the largest deficit of the field to snare a fifth place overall finish and an All-American Honorable Mention for team captain and skipper Emily East '06.

Dartmouth assistant coach John Storck best summed up the team's performance in Charleston, S.C.

"No team came from farther behind to ultimately finish as well. That is what this family is made of," he said.

Leading the team at the three-day regatta that began last Wednesday was A division skipper East and her crew Kate Hacker '07, along with B-division skipper Adele Wilhelm '08 and her crews Betsy Bryant '08 and Laura Sheinkopf '07. Heavy air crew Kendall Reiley '09 ran pit crew and assisted head coach Bryan Stanford and Storck from the docks on strategy and tactics.

The team started the regatta a bit shaky and off its dominating pace leading into the event. Dealing with strong currents and an unusual sea breeze, many competitors were thrown for a loop on the opening day. Although the Dartmouth women typically spend their spring break at the College of Charleston, neither they nor the home team were completely prepared for the mix of water and wind that greeted them.

"Nobody dominated the top spots today," College of Charleston head coach George Wood said. "The teams were feeling each other out and individuals were getting the conditions -- the currents and the shifts. There's a lot of talent here."

The wind, current and talent of their competitors took a heavy toll on Dartmouth, and after the first two sets of races the team sat in 16th place out of 18 teams on the water.

Not to be outdone by teams that they had been thrashing around in all the qualifying races, the girls in green bounced back and began their slow climb up the ranks.

Thursday brought a lighter current and stronger wind, allowing Dartmouth's physical strength to persevere. Dartmouth hiked over and around other teams on all legs of the course, and despite some poor starting positions on the second day, started picking up top finishes.

At the end of the day, Dartmouth was back on championship pace, sitting in sixth place overall with another day of competition remaining.

Every regatta is an up and down event, as each team has its opportunities to take control on a given day. Dartmouth took to the water in speedy fashion for the last four races on Friday morning.

Although the deficit was too large to overcome in the waning races of the regatta, both A and B divisions posted first place finishes in the final two sets and were accompanied around the course by a school of friendly dolphins eager to get in on the excitement.

The women may not have won the regatta but they may have showed the most heart in their epic comeback effort, which earned them a fifth place overall finish.

East's All-American Honorable Mention was her second in as many years at the event.

The Dartmouth coed team will get its own shot at nationals glory in Charleston beginning on Wednesday.

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