Sunday, October 19, 2014

Match Race National Qualifier

This past weekend, the team competed in the regional qualifier for Collegiate Match Racing Nationals in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  Almost all of college match racing is in Sonars, requiring 4 sailors including at least one female crew aboard.  Our team consisted of Ryan Seago as skipper, Alex Ramos as tactician, Kirsten Boelkins in the pit, and Chris Cyr on bow.  Additionally, we brought teammate Jason Doyle to watch us from the coach boat. Sail Sheboygan, the regatta host, arranged housing for all teams.  The fab five arrived to their hosts Tom and Claudia Phillips's home late on Friday, and spent the night learning how to play pool with Tom.

On Saturday, after breakfast with the Phillips family, the team arrived to Sail Sheboygan at 8 AM for weigh-in and registration.  Without any hesitation, all teams we're sent out on the water for a 10 AM warning signal.  It was perfect Sonar conditions, with flat water and 15+ knots of breeze.  The team started out cold with a loss to Wisconsin in the first match.It would take the entire day to build team chemistry, as this was the first time the team had sailed a match racing event together. Nevertheless, Michigan sailed the rest of day without losing another race, completing a double round robin.  Due to the great conditions, racing was done by 3, and Michigan headed ashore looking forward to finals on Sunday against Wisconsin! The rest of the day was spent playing pool, eating pizza with other teams, and more pool.

Sunday brought on almost identical conditions with a little more chop.  After winning this event in 2013 and moving on to nationals, tensions were high as Michigan approached a best-of-five series against Wisconsin. Each race was very close, both teams would have their moments of control during the pre-start, and the lead was constantly changing at each mark rounding. After three races, Michigan was down one win to Wisconsin's two. Despite being on the chopping block, Michigan started race 4 with a sizable lead and continued to extend up the beat.  At the top mark, Michigan was ahead by 10 boat lengths, and it seemed that a win was certain.  The best and the worst part about match racing is that anything can happen.  Rounding the top mark, Michigan's spinnaker went up in a knot, and was unusable as the bowman spent the next two legs re-rigging it.  During this time, Wisconsin had gained the lead and extended to a 10 boat length advantage.  To put a cherry on top, Michigan's jib exploded as they came to the top mark for the second time.  Wisconsin had taken their third win and secured their spot at nationals.

Despite the sour ending, Michigan had a great weekend enjoying the amazing conditions on and off the water.  Special thanks to our hosts Tom and Claudia!

--Chris Cyr, '16