Tufts set to sail through the elements in fall season

Molly Pleskus (E' 18) and senior Sabrina Van Mell sail in a regatta hosted by Boston University on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017. Ray Bernoff / The Tufts Daily Archives

The Tufts sailing team has been beating the heat so far at Mystic Lake in preparation for its fall season, slated to begin on Sept. 8. The Jumbos will race in numerous regattas over the course of its scattershot fall schedule, which is unlike those of other teams. Tufts competes in the New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association, home to teams competing at the Div. I, Div. III and club levels, including standout programs such as Harvard and Yale.

The Jumbos will look to build on the momentum gained at the end of their spring season. Key performances included a 12th-place finish at the co-ed New England Dinghy Championship, hosted by Brown, as well as an impressive sixth-place result (out of 14) at the Boston Dinghy Club Challenge Cup on the Charles River. Alp Rodopman (LA ’18) rode a string of impressive performances to a spot on the Turkish national team at the Sailing World Championships in Aarhus, Denmark, while classmates Emily Shanley-Roberts (LA ’18) and Molly Pleskus (E ’18) competed at Nationals, hosted by Old Dominion. In total, the team graduated nine seniors, including former captains Cameron Holley (LA ’18), Lara Dienemann (E ’18) and Julien Guiot (LA ’18).

The team will once again be led by coach Ken Legler, a former member of the U.S. Sailing Team, who has been at the helm of Tufts’ program since 1980 and has since overseen 92 All-Americans and 20 national championships. Joining Legler is assistant coach Rachel Silverstein, who has worked with the team since 2015. Additionally, assistant coach Emmet Smith, who sailed at Yale University, will be joining the Jumbos full-time starting this fall.

“[Coach Smith] coached me, and I can tell that he’s going to be a valuable asset to the A team, the crews and the team at-large,” senior Florian Eenkema van Dijk told the Daily in an email. “Emmet is a talented sailor himself, crewing in college for some of the best sailors in the country during his collegiate career, and we’re really excited to have him on board full-time.”

The Jumbos also have four new captains, all seniors, hardened under a combination of the New England waters and savvy coaching. Skippers Jack Bitney and Chris Keller both competed in A team regattas, while crew Ian Morgan and Sabrina Van Mell also boast a bevy of experience.

“The [competing] skippers and crews, a lot of them are seniors,” sophomore Jacob Whitney said. “Hopefully that translates to performance. Plus, we’ll have the 26 new [first-years who] will give us a lot to think about for years to come.”

That is a record number of incoming sailors, according to Whitney. The first-years met with coach Legler during the team’s practice session on Wednesday, hoping to get acclimated for the flurry of upcoming regattas.

“We have a huge and talented [first-year] class who are all really excited to get out there. We’ll be making a few cuts after today’s tryouts, but we expect to have a really big team,” van Dijk said. “[This] is great for training, social gatherings and overall enthusiasm. The [first-years] bring a lot of energy, and we really appreciate that.”

Tufts’ season unofficially commenced with the exhibition Chix Only regatta at Mystic Lake on Sept. 2 — a women’s-only competition — and will continue with numerous regattas.

This weekend, Tufts will travel to Yale for the Harry Anderson Trophy, in which the Jumbos placed 11th last season. The team will also compete for the women’s Toni Deutsch Trophy at MIT, the Penobscot Bay Open and the Harman Cup (both at Maine Maritime) and the Mount Hope Bay Open at Roger Williams.

The Jumbos’ fall schedule is likely to feature frightening winds and a diverse range of temperatures, for which an unprepared sailor could find their plan ‘in knots.’

“Sailing is a tricky sport. The best boats are competitive in light wind, heavy wind and everything in-between,” van Dijk said. “There’s nothing we can do about the weather, so we just have to use the wind to our advantage better than the guy next to us.”

With a full slate of action, the Tufts sailing team should have plenty of time to acclimate its new members, who will add to last year’s talented ranks.