On the weekend of Oct. 19, the SBU Sailing Team once again made the trek to the Bronx to race in the North Fall #2 regatta at SUNY Maritime. Racing took place in the East River between the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges. This was a qualifier regatta for the MAISA – the Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association – (the Conference in which SBU competes) Fall Championship, so the competition was fierce. A total of 18 schools participated in the regatta.
Given that this was the last regatta for the fall season, we wanted to give team members who do not usually get to a chance to race an opportunity to do so, so the majority of SBU sailors who came were either new sailors or sailing in a position in which they had little experience. There were several goals for the weekend. One was to continue working on starting skills. The goal in a sailboat race is to be as close as possible to the starting line when the race starts without being over beforehand and without having other boats in front of you. This is difficult to do with 18 boats on a starting line that is just big enough for 18 boats! The other goal was improve our upwind sailing technique.
Saturday was cloudy with temperatures in the mid 60s and started off with very little wind. After a two hour delay to wait for wind, racing commenced around noon in a light southerly breeze. Sailing in A division, were Emily Brownawell as skipper and Mike Gusev as crew. Brownawell, normally a crew, jumped at the chance to improve her skippering skills. Gusev is a new member of the team, sailing in his first competitive regatta. In B division, Cody Murphy skippered and David Benjamin crewed for the first two races and then switched positions for the next two races. Both are very new to sailing, especially to sailboat racing. As the day progressed, the wind built and Greg Sarafin subbed in for Gusev as crew for the last two A division races of the day. One of the many highlights on Saturday was Benjamin beating two boats in one race, very impressive considering he had never skippered in a race (except at practice the day before) prior to this regatta. Brownawell and Sarafin finished strong with a 13th place finish in the last A division race of the day.
Sunday was a gorgeous fall day. Racing began at 9:45 a.m. with the crystal clear NYC skyline in the background. Winds were from the west and were very gusty. They averaged eight-12 knots, but a few gusts were definitely in the 15-16 knot range. Temperatures were a bit chillier than Saturday. Sarafin continued to crew for Brownawell in A division. Murphy again skippered in B division, this time with veteran crew Mary Loffredo. Brownawell and Murphy both showed immense improvement in their starts and everyone sailed extremely well in challenging conditions. Murphy and Loffredo had several photo finishes, with one involving them and four other boats finishing within two boat lengths of each other. After a long day, with an A division set that lasted almost an hour and a half because of a run away leeward gate mark and many general recalls due to current pushing boats over the line, everyone left with a smile on their face. This was Sarafin’s last college regatta and I think it’s safe to say that Sunday provided great conditions for his final races. 10 races in both divisions were completed over the two days.
Overall, we finished 17th out of 18 teams. While on the surface this may seem disappointing, it is important to remember a few things. This regatta was an opportunity for some of our less experienced sailors to work on improving their skills. We were racing against some varsity level teams with students who have been sailing and racing since they were young kids. Time in the boat is the most important factor in determining racing success in sailing. The only way to improve is to keep sailing and eventually, that experience will pay big dividends on the race course. The improvement that occurred over the weekend was enormous. We went from being solidly in the back of the fleet on Saturday to being in the hunt and challenging the lower middle of the fleet on Sunday. Everyone who sailed should be extremely proud.
While this was our last regatta for the fall, we do not stop sailing. We will be continuing practices until the semester ends as we work towards continually improving for the Spring season. So, if you are interested in sailing, novice or expert, it is not too late. Come join us on the water!