May 6, 2009
Boston, Mass. - This past weekend marked a historic event in college sailing history. Thirty-six teams from seven conferences assembled at Fan Pier in Boston, MA to compete in two eighteen-team National Semifinal Championships. While any competitive team would aim to win an event like this, the true goal for every team in attendance was to finish top nine in their respective regatta so as to earn a berth at the Coed Dinghy Nationals to be co-hosted by Stanford and St. Francis Yacht Club June 1-3. Stanford went into the event having already qualified for the women's and team racing championships set to precede the coed event, and they looked to make it three for three.
Fan Pier in Boston is also hosting the Volvo Ocean Race North American stopover. The Volvo Ocean Race boats are seventy-foot cutting edge sailing machines that few people in the US will get the chance to see as they are in Boston for not even three weeks. The ICSA semifinals was central to the entertainment in the Volvo Ocean Race Village at Fan Pier for the weekend, allowing college sailing a great deal of exposure to the public. There were live video feeds to a big screen television in the village as well as on the internet courtesy of www.sailgroove.org and results were updated in real time at www.collegesailing.org. While the sailing was as competitive as ever, the media and surrounding events could represent the future of college sailing.
Stanford sailors at the event included seniors Taylor Grimes, Kelly McKenna, and Catherine Cu, sophomores Cole Hatton, Hannah Burroughs, and Hayley Tobin, and freshmen Nick Dugdale and Carolyn Prioleau. In B division, Grimes and Prioleau started off the event for the Cardinal in a new format that allowed for the A division players to finish off the regatta. The women in B division started out strong with a 9-4 set, very solid considering they had not seen coed fleet racing competition of the same caliber all year. Hatton and McKenna got out of the gates slow on Saturday as they hit the pin end of the starting line twice and were flagged for a rule 42 violation as well. At the end of the first day of racing that saw many abandonments and course changes for the fickle breeze, Stanford sat in ninth overall after four races in each division.
Sunday brought a great deal of excitement once the breeze filled in enough to allow sailing to commence. Stanford was in a very tight race from the beginning that saw six teams in contention for the last four spots within points of each other until the final races. Before A division went on the water for the final time, Stanford had a mere four-point lead on the 10th place nationals missing spot. With the pressure on, Hatton and McKenna finished the regatta with their best set, scoring a 7 and a 3, which was good enough to move the Cardinal into sixth overall.
The Stanford sailors will take advantage of the opportunity to continue practicing for a month or so before nationals on their relative home waters of the city-front at St. Francis Yacht Club and Treasure Island. Women's Nationals will take place May 25-27 out of St. Francis, Team Racing Nationals will follow May 29-31 at Treasure Island, and the Coed Dinghy Nationals will once again serve as the penultimate event on the calendar to be sailed June 1-3 out of St. Francis Yacht Club.