Jumbos withstand weather to begin spring season

Senior Molly Pleskus and junior Sabrina Van Mell sail in a regatta hosted by Boston University on April 16, 2017. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily

The Tufts sailing team braved tumultuous weather in announcing its return to competitive racing over the weekend. Unfortunately, the “bomb cyclone” that ripped across the East Coast forced the cancellation of many of the Jumbos’ scheduled regattas. Due to these circumstances, Tufts was unable to compete in the Thames River Team Race at Conn. College, the Women’s Inter-Conference at Old Dominion or the Women’s Invite hosted by the University of Rhode Island.

The opening weekend, however, was not completely bogged down by the unfavorable forecast. The Jumbos sent six sailors to the Sharpe Team Race Trophy at Brown for a New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) team-scoring regatta, featuring a round-robin style of competition in Flying Junior (FJ) boats. Junior skippers Chris Keller, Jackson McCoy and Sammy Shea were accompanied by senior crew Michelle Chisdak and first-year crews Jacob Whitney and Juliana Testa. The group finished fifth overall in the eight-team event with three wins and four losses, only one spot outside the final-four round robin tournament. After recording a perfect 7–0 record in the opening round, MIT defeated host Brown in the final to take the victory.

“It was pretty cold for the first few races, and the wind chill didn’t help,” Whitney said. “The regatta was mostly everyone brushing off the rust, since we haven’t raced since early November. [Senior] Emily Shanley-Roberts knows a lot about team racing. She came with us to the Sharpe Trophy as our coach.”

At Harvard, Tufts sailors competed in another team-scored NEISA regatta — the Harvard Women’s Team Race — which was also raced in FJ boats. The Jumbos’ squad featured significant class diversity, as it was comprised of four skippers (senior Molly Pleskus, sophomore Charlotte Lenz, first-year Talia Toland and first-year Lindsay Powers) and three crews (senior Lucy Robison, junior Taylor Hart and first-year Hanna Brush). The Jumbos picked up two victories over the host Crimson to finish in third place. Brown took first place with an 8–1 record, while MIT (7–2) finished second.

The two opening-weekend regattas serve as an introduction to what could be a long and fruitful season for the Tufts sailors. The fall season featured both Toland and senior Alp Rodopman competing individually at the Laser Performance Singlehanded Nationals (where Rodopman finished sixth overall), as well as a bevy of other strong showings from the Jumbos. Nonetheless, there are some adjustments to be made in order to transition from fall to spring.

“The vast majority of the regattas in the fall were fleet races,” Whitney said. “Team racing is a little different because it’s three-by-three [competitions]. I think the fall prepared us pretty well for having our pairs of people in the boat, [getting] to know each other and being able to work together and move faster.”

The sage influence of some of the team’s more experienced sailors certainly aids this transition. Whitney noted that skippers such as Shanley-Roberts, McCoy, junior Florian Eenkema van Dijk, junior Cam Holley and others often close practices on Mystic Lake with hour-long debriefs on technique, tactics and new skills — all drawing from their wealth of experience. In a world of haves and have-knots, the younger Jumbos appear to possess a vast amount of knowledge from which to draw.

“Time on the water is vital for improvement for any sailor, but doing so at a high level competition is even better,” Van Dijk told the Daily in an email. “Sailing against good teams is a benefit for inexperienced sailors, as they hope to emulate what they see. Making mistakes is a great way to learn, and good sailors often force you into making mistakes.”

Weather-permitting, the sailors will battle on throughout the always-inviting New England spring to continue getting back into the swing of competing, especially for those who did not compete due to poor conditions. Tufts will host the appropriately named Icebreaker Invite over the weekend, while also sending teams to the Wood Trophy Team Race at Harvard and the Team Racing Invite at MIT. Van Dijk touched upon some of the regattas later in the season that the team is also anticipating.

“The Graham Hall at Annapolis [on] the first weekend of spring break is a big regatta we’re looking forward to,” Van Dijk said. “New England schools race against the best Mid-Atlantic and Southern schools. Right after that is our classic spring break camping trip at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where we race all week long and spend nights around a campfire singing songs and providing many forms of entertainment.”

Practicing in the cold has not been easy for the Jumbos, but they will look to continue brushing off the rust in the upcoming regattas. As the team’s first-years become equipped with valuable information from experienced upperclassmen, the challenge may prove to be no match for Tufts sailing.