One-on-one with Rebecca McElvain '19

by Samantha Hussey | 4/10/17 1:10am

At the Lynne Marchiando Trophy in Boston, Massachusetts last weekend, Rebecca McElvain ’19 helped the Big Green sailing team win its first conference team race in 15 years. McElvain, one of Dartmouth’s top crews, and teammate Charles Lalumiere ’17 swept the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association weekly awards.

Why did you choose Dartmouth?

RM: I chose Dartmouth because I definitely knew that I wanted to go somewhere on the East Coast and New England for sailing — it’s where sailing is most competitive. Dartmouth was one of my options, and when I visited I really liked it. The team was super inviting, and it really was a family culture.

What was the transition to collegiate sailing like?

RM: My high school team was very disciplined, and we happened to have a very similar schedule to college sailing as far as practicing every day and putting a lot of time into our practices and our regattas. I think that made the transition into college sailing much easier for me because college sailing is so time-consuming.

Can you describe your training, both in and out of season?

RM: In season, it is a lot. We have practices four times a week and regattas every weekend. We usually get two weekends off in the fall. The offseason is a little more relaxed. We will have three lifts a week and some meetings once a week to talk about sailing and strategy. Spring is our championship season, so we will have nationals in June, and that is where all of our practice comes together. Spring is a little difficult. The winter weather makes it hard to practice in New Hampshire, but we travel to Boston twice a week to get in the time we miss here. It is a lot of time commitment, but it’s worth it.

How would you describe the dynamic of the team?

RM: In my two years here, I think this year the team has been by far the most determined and disciplined. We have made the biggest improvements because of that. I think that we are a lot more confident this year as well in our ability to have a chance at winning nationals, which is pretty huge. All-in-all, we are a family-like group. We are all friends but we push each other a lot too, which is good.

What has been the most challenging aspect of sailing?

RM: I think the most challenging aspect is being able to stay level-headed, especially with team racing. You will see other teams’ boats yelling at each other between races. It’s very easy to be frustrated when things don’t go your way. There is a lot of bad luck to be had with sailing — a lot of things that don’t work out the way you want them to. Obviously, conditions also make it challenging.

How have you seen the team’s performance change from the fall?

RM: At the beginning of winter break, we had a week-long training trip in Charleston, South Carolina, and then again during spring break. In the transition between the fall and the spring seasons, it matters a lot how much effort we put into those two training trips, and I think these were the most productive training trips we have had. A lot of the seniors say the same, and it’s reflecting in our performances in the spring so far. We had a good fall season, but I think we’re going to have an even better spring season because of that.

What can you tell us about the recent Lynne Marchiando Trophy?

RM: There was a high level of competition there, and I think that was encouraging for us to perform our best, and it was a trial run for what nationals will be like. It was tough conditions on Saturday. It was snowing and pretty windy, but our team is really focused on being mentally prepared and not letting difficult conditions get to us. A lot of other teams let that affect them. You could hear it when they were talking about not wanting to sail, and we just make it a rule not to talk about how that affects us. We forget about that and think about sailing. I think that’s what really helped us on Saturday, and then Sunday was a lot easier sailing-wise. It was sunny and nice with a wind that was a bit easier to sail in, so I think coming off of a good first day helped us in the second day and increased our confidence about the regatta.

How are you and the team going to build on this momentum?

RM: I don’t really have anything to compare to. I think our team has been pretty good as long as I have been at it. I think we deserved to win it. There have been many opportunities to win in the past where we barely haven’t and there will be more opportunities in the future. It’s exciting for it to be our first win in a while, but I think that the results don’t necessarily reflect our abilities. It was deserved, but it wasn’t surprising.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

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