Tufts places second in field of 18 at Atlantic Coast Dinghy Championship

Tufts’ co-ed sailing team capped off its fall season on the weekend of Nov. 12, racing close to home on the Charles. The team finished second out of 18 at the MIT-hosted Atlantic Coast Dinghy Championship.

Tufts’ skipper senior Scott Barbano and sophomore crew Ian Morgan led the team over the weekend with a second place finish in the B division, racking up 126 points, three points behind first-place MIT. Senior skipper Griffin Rolander and junior crew Emily Shanley-Roberts finished third in the A division with 130 points, placing them behind MIT and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Tufts’ aggregate score of 256 points fell close behind MIT’s 245-point total.

Despite falling behind in early races, both MIT and Tufts were able to capitalize on the later blunders that some of the strongest competitors made. In the 17th race, both of Tufts’ boats finished in the top 10, while both sailing duos from College of Charleston, which finished third overall, came in 16th. Seventh place Yale’s A division boat did not finish better than 12th in the last six races, which contrasted with its first six races of the regatta, three of which the boat won outright. Yale finished Saturday’s 10 races in the lead but dropped off significantly on Sunday to cede the lead to MIT.

Coach Ken Legler, whose co-ed squad of Jumbos is ranked No. 5 in the nation, believes that Tufts’ success can be attributed to opposing teams not being at full strength to some extent.

“We did well at MIT because some of the best sailors in the world were there for the women’s regatta. Some of the best skippers in the country are women skippers, including at least four from Boston College, Yale, University of Rhode Island and Coast Guard who weren’t in the co-ed regatta,” Legler said.

Complimenting Tufts’ success at the Atlantic Coast Championship was junior Alp Rodopman’s performance this season. After competing in the Olympic qualifiers this summer, Rodopman dominated the New England single-handed sailing scene. He finished first earlier this fall at the New England Single-Handed Championships with a score of 44 – a full 46 points ahead of second place. However, his sixth-place finish at the National championship leads Legler to believe there is room for improvement.

“He needs to not lose his skills because he went through Olympic training while a lot of the other sailors from other schools were being students and being a student erodes your skills at single-handed. You get better at double-handed but your single-handed skills just won’t be the same as if you were training in open sea during an olympic campaign with other champions,” Legler said.

At the same time, Legler hopes that Rodopman can further develop his double-handed skills. Tufts’ senior Sandy Beatty from Nova Scotia provides a model for Rodopman in this endeavor, as Beatty improved his double-handed sailing after missing the Olympics. Thus, practicing with Beatty provides Rodopman with a unique opportunity.

“You’re not going to have this opportunity to train at this level for double-handed sailing once you graduate,” Legler said.

Goals for next season consist of qualifying for the three major regattas: the team nationals, the dinghy nationals and the women’s nationals.

The hiring of Assistant Coach Rachael Silverstein puts the women’s team in a much better place to succeed — this marks the first time that Tufts sailing will have a full-time assistant coach. Silverstein, who worked with the team on weekends last year, has a deep history with the sport. She sailed for University of South Florida from 2009 through 2012 and has raced in small keelboats since college.

“She’s current with the sport, she’s a student of the sport and she’s really psyched and smart. Essentially she’s a really good educator,” Legler said.

Tufts will host the New England Team Racing Championship on April 8 through April 9,  and pursues a top-four finish in order to qualify for the National Team Racing Championships. Despite failing to finish higher than eighth in the past five years, Legler believes that being the home team will give his squad a leg up this year.

“We’ll be better prepared than we have been for the past couple of years anyway,” Legler said.“There’s a lot of advantages to being home team, more so than in any other sport. Our conditions are unique because the air is shifty and the water is flat on a tiny lake and our boats are different. That said, really good sailors can figure out how to race in any boat. It’s the ones that aren’t that great that use the boats as an excuse for not doing well.”

Legler is confident that his team will qualify. He believes that Tufts is well ahead of Brown and that the only New England teams that stand in Tufts’ way are No. 1 Yale, No. 7 Dartmouth and No. 8 Boston College.

Should Tufts qualify for the National Championship, the team hopes to overthrow Yale, which is trying for a fifth consecutive title. Yale is currently tied with the 1990s Tufts teams for most consecutive titles.

Tufts will graduate some of its strongest skippers this spring in Rolander, Barbano and senior MaryClaire Kiernan. While Legler believes the sophomore class is filled with tremendous depth and skill, the team will still be left with a dearth of skippers. This year’s first-year class has shown promise but is still developing and adapting to collegiate sailing.

“I joined the team as a walk-on having some prior experience with sailing and racing. Even though I already knew some racing basics, being on the Tufts sailing team allowed me to learn about an entire new layer of complexity of the sport,” first-year Kelsey Foster told the Daily in an email. “I learned of the many small details that contributed to better boatspeed and tactics, such as where to position my body during a turn and how to read the sails and water to give the skipper information as to what direction to head in.”

Foster is looking to grow as a sailor this winter and spring. She plans on learning more about the sport and gaining experience through team meetings and regattas and eventually expanding her role on the team.

Legler, on the other hand, will be spending this winter tending to the fundraising and administrative work that has been piling up since the fall. He is also very excited to focus on recruiting for the class of 2021, which will hopefully feature Carlos Robles from Spain, whom Legler has deemed “ the best youth sailer in the world.”