Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A College Sailor's Life - Reflections from a Special Weekend in Houston

By Kelly Stannard

I’ve had a few days now to relax and digest, so to speak, after this weekend. Team Minor Threat made our first appearance as a team at the U.S. Team Racing Championship for the Hinman Trophy and came away victorious. Several of our team members have individually competed in the event but this was our debut as team Minor Threat.

We got a lot of questions about how our team came together over the weekend. In college sailing all of our boats were each other’s main competition. Charlie Buckingham and Alex Taylor sailed A division together for Georgetown. Tyler Sinks and Lucy Wallace sailed A division for Boston College and Cy Thompson and I sailed A division for Roger Williams. Over the last few years our schools have been each other’s rivals in both fleet and team racing. We seem like a misfit team to most people because so many of the other teams competing in the team racing circuit join forces from the same college. Team Minor Threat went down a different route, the skippers got together and got to talking. Basically, they decided that we should join forces and see what we can do when we are on the same side; in a nutshell that’s how we became Minor Threat.

Individually, each of our boat pairs are extremely talented, we had no idea what we could do collectively. The Hinman was our second event sailing together, earlier this year we competed in the New York Yacht Club Team Race where we placed third, behind the Woonsocket Rockets and Team Extreme. We were all pumped about our finish at the NYYC Team Race because it was our first event together but we came to the Hinman with vengeance.

I feel a main part of our success this past weekend was our ability to stay focused and have fun with each other. All of us are busy with school, a “real job”, Olympic Campaigns, or searching for a “real job” so being together again for a weekend we agreed we wanted to make the most out of it. We put our team together to see what we could do and we proved that we could hold our own with some of the best team racing
The competition at this event was extremely challenging, the names you see on the list of competitors is remarkable, there are past and present Olympians, ICSA All-Americans and world champions. It was incredible to be a part of such a talented pool of sailors. Going into our first round robin, where each team races each other once, we knew that every team is good and went into it with an “each race is important” mentality. We finished 10-4 overall, which qualified us for the top six. Previous records were erased, leveling the playing field once again. We were pleased to make it through but knew we’d have to step it up the third day in the double round of top six teams if we had a chance for the title. 

I would say this was the turning point in the event for us. We certainly rose to the occasion when we went undefeated in the first round and only lost one race to Larchmont Yacht Club in the second round. Team Extreme was the favored team going into the weekend with their all-star team and experience together. In the first round robin against Team Extreme, they beat us with a good start. Our team struggled a bit with our starts in this round. We talked about what was working and what wasn’t and revamped our starting strategy for the third day. This revamp seemed to work and all of our boats were getting off the line clean in the double round of six. This was a crucial component of the equation against Team Extreme who typically have great starts.
We buckled down to the basics, were able to get clean starts, and from there, our individual boat speed in all conditions and our executions of the plays is what made us successful.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we all flew in from different corners of the country and we all flew back to different corners of the country! I went back to Roger Williams and college sailing, Cy and Charlie are back to the grind with their Laser campaigns, Lucy is starting her job as a consultant in New York City this week, Alex is back to her job in Boston, and Tyler is back to Cali where he has a month chuck full of job interviews.

This weekend I’ll be competing for the Moody Trophy at the University of Rhode Island. I’ll be blogging this Friday about our preparations for this Intersectional Regatta.

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