Virginia Sailing competing in the 2013 ICSA Coed Dinghy Semifinals
The Sailing Association at the University of Virginia — a student-run club sports team open to all U.Va. students — recently qualified for the 2013 College Sailing Spring National Championship, the first time the U.Va. club has qualified for the national finals.
During a semifinal back in April, a team comprised of then-fourth-year Gordon Wolcott, third-years Chris Stessing and Ellen Hubbard, second-year Hannah Varden and first-years Caitlin Grumbling and Sam Patterson traveled to the ICSA Coed Dinghy Semi-Finals at Old Dominion University and took ninth, good enough to qualify for the Gill/ICSA Coed Dingy National Finals on May 28-30.
The team practices at Lake Anna, about a 45-minute drive from Grounds, where it has a fleet of nine FJ boats.
Stessing and Hubbard recently sent along these accounts of going through semifinals and qualifying for nationals.
Chris Stessing – Commodore:
“Although we are only a club sport here at U.Va., the ICSA (Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association, the highest level of sailing available to college athletes) sees varsity and club teams in the same light. This mean that everyone weekend we compete against the top teams in the country who are fully funded, have multiple coaches and practice five days a week. It is a very tall order for us to be able to sail at the level of these other teams seeing that we practice at most once a week, and have a volunteer coach that only meets us on the weekend. Everything else is done by the sailors on the team from administrative duties to finding vehicles to take each weekend around the country and running our own practices.
When I came to U.Va. it was a far-out dream to even qualify out of our conference (MAISA – Mid Atlantic Inter-collegiate Sailing Association) to make it to the semifinals of the National Championship. Our “A” skipper Gordon Wolcott and I (“B” skipper) have long been talking about how cool it would be to make this happen and it still feels surreal.
Sailing at the semifinals felt slightly out of place when we arrived. The top 36 teams in the country arrived all in large 15-passenger vans with their head coach, assistant coach and a full team of starters and backups of at least 10 sailors. They were all wearing their provided team gear and looked really official. We were definitely out-matched off the water with our six sailors showing up in a small SUV with our assistant coach in tow. Even though we may have been outclassed off the water, the actual racing takes place on the water and it was clear from the first start that we were good enough to hang with the top teams in the country. After the first day of racing with a great performance from Gordon (winning one race), U.Va. was in seventh with the top nine teams qualifying for the finals. The second day of the regatta started off great with me winning a race in B division and us moving into the top five. Things quickly changed as the wind picked up and the increased level of fitness of the varsity teams took over in the breezy, more physically demanding conditions. We slid all the way to ninth place and had to fight off the 10th-place team in the last two races of the regatta.
In the end we were in disbelief at the accomplishment that we had achieved, and it is still hard to wrap my head around the level we have achieved with so many odds against us. For the first time ever, U.Va. is a ranked team in the country (18th), and we are sailing at the final round of our sport’s national championship. I hope we can represent U.Va. well!
From left: Chris Stessing, Caitlin Grumbling, Hannah Varden, Ellen Hubbard, Alexandra Brenin, Gordon Wolcott, Sam Patterson, and KC Fullmer.
Ellen Hubbard – Co-Captain:
We are all very excited to have the opportunity to compete with the best of the best down in Florida. Going to semifinals was an accomplishment in and of itself, and it was electrifying being in Hampton once we realized we were moving on to the finals. Sitting among some of the best college sailors in the country at the closing awards and now among them in the rankings at No. 18 will undoubtedly remain highlights of my time at U.Va., and I’m sure the rest of the team would say the same.
The team will be practicing twice a day for the week leading up to the championship, which may be more practice than we have had the luxury of conducting all year! This is the first time in school history that the sailing team has competed in either the semifinals or the finals of the co-ed ICSA national championship, and we are enjoying every minute.
For more, visit the Virginia Sailing website.
May 28 update: A live stream of the national finals is available.
| Monday, May 20th | By: Rob Seal @3:51 pm |