Coed and Women’s Sailing: Opening weekend sees Jumbos achieve high standings across races in several states

16/04/2017 - Boston, MA - Junior Molly Pleskus and sophomore Sabrina Van Mell sail in a regatta on April 16, 2017. The team showed significant promise in just the first weekend of the season. (Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily)

In the opening weekend of the fall 2017 season, Tufts sailing competed in a total of seven regattas across four states.

The Jumbostop two co-ed boats traveled to Yale University to compete in the Harry Anderson Jr. Trophy. Tufts finished 11th out of 16 teams at the highly competitive event. In the final standings, the Jumbos trailed 10th-place George Washington University by just five points, while finishing a comfortable 41 points ahead of 12th-place U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Junior skipper Jack Bitney and senior tri-captain crew Lara Dienemann sailed in the A division, while junior skipper Florian Eenkema van Dijk and senior crew Emily Shanley-Roberts represented the Jumbos in the B division.

Dienemann and Bitney sailed a Z420, which is a considerably wider boat than the FJ that Eenkema van Dijk and Shanley-Roberts sailed. For both, though, a shifty northerly wind played a huge factor.

“The conditions made it difficult to get off the line,” Dienemann said. “The starting line was kind of short.”

While the Jumbos got off to a difficult start Saturday, they were much more competitive on Sunday. Dienemann and Bitney posted third and fourth place finishes in races on the final day.

“It was good to experience that kind of improvement,” Dienemann said.

Although they were far off the pace set by Boston University’s 169 points, the Jumbos’ top two co-ed boats had a solid first showing among a talented and competitive field, and they will look to continue improving over the course of the year.

On the women’s side, Tufts’ top two boats competed in the Toni Deutsch Trophy at MIT. The regatta was also extremely competitive, featuring national powerhouses such as Boston College and Yale University. At the end of the weekend, Tufts finished ninth of 16 teams.

In the A division, the experienced duo of senior skipper Molly Pleskus and junior crew Taylor Hart finished in 13th place, which included a victory in the 10th race. In an impressive collegiate debut, first-years Talia Toland, the skipper, and Marley Hillman, crew, finished seventh among the B division boats. The duo recorded second place finishes in the weekend’s eighth and 12th races. For Toland, the Jumbos top recruit this year, it was a particularly strong collegiate debut.

“We are very excited to have [Talia] on the team,” Dienemann said.

Another highlight from the weekend was a second place finish for the Jumbos in the Mt. Hope Bay Regatta, hosted by Roger Williams University on Rhode Island’s Narragansett BayOf the 13 teams competing, Tufts (90 points) was defeated only by Yale University (38 points), which rolled to a resounding victory. Senior tri-captain Julien Guiot was one of four Jumbos who competed in the regatta.

“This weekend was a little tough conditions-wise,” Guiot said. “When it’s still summer weather there isn’t too much breeze, so it can be tough to get races off. That was a particular issue at the regatta I was sailing at.”

However, the lack of wind at Roger Williams did not prevent the Tufts boats from having a strong showing, as the Jumbos’ second place finish in the Mt. Hope Bay regatta was their highest of the weekend. The Jumbos’ second boat also performed admirably, finishing fourth overall with 111 points.

“We were neither ecstatic nor disappointed with the way we finished this weekend. It was within our expectations,” Guiot said.

Dienemann echoed a similar sentiment.

“The expectation was kind of mediocre and I think we fulfilled that expectation,” the Portsmouth, N.H. native said.

Both Guiot and Dienemann discussed their belief that this year will be one of rebuilding for Tufts sailing due to the fact that all of last year’s top skippers graduated. However, they believe that the team showed significant promise in just the first weekend of the season.

“It’s going to be tough for the guys who are now starting at the top level regattas,” Guiot said. “It was an encouraging sign to see where we finished at the top level regattas given that it was [many sailors’] first time. It shows good hope for this year and next.”

Dienemann also acknowledges the difficulty of having such a young team but shares Guiot’s sense of optimism about the season.

“Basically it’s kind of a rebuilding year for us,” she said. “The younger skippers who are new to this level are very capable of doing well.”

The co-ed team will try to build upon their performance at this weekend’s Nevins Trophy, hosted by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., and the Hatch Brown Trophy in Boston. On the women’s side, the next A-level regatta is the Stu Nelson Trophy at Connecticut College in New London, Conn.

Caleb Symons contributed reporting to this article