Sailing team ranked third and seventh in Sailing World poll

by Alex Leibowitz | 9/30/16 12:15am

Following a strong campaign last season, which resulted in a 10th-place finish at the Inter Collegiate Sailing Association Gill Coed National Championship and a sixth place finish in the Sperry Women’s National Championship, the sailing team opened with a strong start to the year. Sailing World, an organization that ranks college sailing teams according to an open coaches poll, placed Dartmouth in the third spot for coed and seventh for women’s in its second week of fall rankings.

The coed team earned 276 total points and is currently ranked below Yale University and Boston College. In the women’s rankings, Dartmouth earned 206 points. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Brown University and Boston College took the top three spots.

The third and seventh-place rankings are an improvement for both sailing teams. Last week, 13 coaches participated in the poll, and both the coed and women’s teams placed eighth in the first week of rankings. This week, 17 coaches voted and based on the performances from this past weekend, the rankings shifted in the Big Green’s favor.

Last week, the team split up and competed in different events across New England. Charlie Lalumiere ’17, Mia Steck ’17, Madeline Cooney ’17 and Patrick Floyd ’17 competed in the St. Mary’s Interconference at St. Mary’s, Maryland. The Big Green finished in first place, beating the U.S. Naval Academy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston College.

Head coach Justin Assad said the team was excited to get the win at St. Mary’s because there were numerous competitive teams from across the country who participated in that interconference regatta.

Nate Greason ’17, Jack McGraw ’20, Noah Simmons ’20 and Kait Alvord ’20 sailed at the Chris Loder Trophy in Boston last Saturday and placed fourth out of 18 teams.

Peninah Benjamin ’20, Peggy Kilvert ’18, Audrey Giblin ’20 and Sophia Diserio ’18 competed for the Amanda Trophy in Bristol, Rhode Island and placed sixth. Finally, members of the team also competed for the Stedman Hood Trophy in Boston, where they placed eighth out of 19 teams.

Assad noted how the team has evolved due to the addition of nine new freshmen, which is a relatively big incoming class for the sailing team.

“We’re still working out the kinks with some of the first year students,” Assad said. “They’ve all got a long way to go, but we’ve definitely seen a lot of promise with many of them. There’s certainly a lot of raw talent there.”

Rebecca McElvain ’19 said she is excited about the idea of competing with this year’s freshman class during the season and for the next few years.

“There all very good and capable,” McElvain said. “I think that’s really going to help us in the future years here.”

This week’s jump in the rankings also reflect the progress the team has already been making since the opening of the fall season. Earlier this month, the Big Green placed fourth at the 74th Pine Trophy and was unable to reclaim its title as a three-time defending champion. Two weeks ago, the sailing team finished in second place in the Hatch Brown Trophy race, indicating how well the team has been able to adjust and grow with each week of competition.

Assad is particularly impressed with how well the women’s team has been able to adjust considering the loss of former captain Sarah Williams ’16, who ended her career at Dartmouth with an All-NEISA Skipper honor.

“We’ve got some new faces on the women side,” Assad said. “But the girls have been sailing really well, and we’re still putting the pieces together but were happy.”

While contemplating last season’s successful run, Assad said that championships posed a challenge to the team as many sailors were competing at that event for the first time.

This year, he expects that their experiences will help them improve upon their previous performances.

“I think a little bit of experience for this group of sailors will go a really long way,” Assad said. “Once you’ve been there, once you’ve seen what it’s like, that kind of helps calm your nerves the next time we’re at the big games.”

Last year, the sailing team ended the fall season toward the end of November when it competed in the Match Race National Championship. If this year ends similarly to last, the team will have a little under two months to prepare to compete at a championship level until the winter season begins. That means, the team also has a little under two months to improve upon its current rankings.

Like all sports, that potential begins with the next competition. This weekend, the team will once again split up and compete in four regattas on Saturday and Sunday — the Danmark Trophy, the Hewitt Trophy, the Women’s Regis and a women’s Regatta at Cornell University.

Assad said the Danmark Trophy race, which the Coast Guard is hosting, is a particularly important event this Saturday because it is the main race and attracts the best collegiate sailing talent.

“We’ll see a lot of the top teams all competing together this weekend,” he said.