Carlson shines in maiden sailing season at Tufts, finishes 13th at Nationals

First-year Abbie Carlson and senior Taylor Hart navigate the waters of Mystic Lake during practice on Sept. 21. Courtesy Kenneth Legler

First-year Abbie Carlson impressed in her maiden season on the Tufts sailing teams, culminating in a 13th-place finish at the LaserPerformance Women’s Singlehanded Nationals. The regatta included 14 races over the weekend of Nov. 34 at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich.

At Nationals, Carlson competed against some of the fiercest competition around the nation on Lake Michigan, including eventual champion Christina Sakellaris, a sophomore from Stanford.

Carlson, part of the Seattle Yacht Club team while in high school, has participated in at least seven regattas this season, skippering or at least partially skippering in all of them. She qualified for the LaserPerformance Women’s Singlehanded Nationals as one of the top 18 women singlehanded sailors in the nation, after finishing fourth at the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association Single-handed Championship held on Sept. 1516.

“[Coach Ken Legler] has been very helpful in adapting to college sailing,” Carlson said. “It has been kind of a tough transition between junior sailing and college sailing since the boats are just so different, even in singlehanded sailing. So it has been great to have him leading me along the path just getting better.”

Despite the talent in the field of competitors at Grand Valley State, Carlson was able to put forth a strong showing. Competing in radial boats, the young Jumbo started on fire with a fifth and second place finish in the first two races on Saturday. Carlson stumbled to some double-digit finishes before ending Saturday with a solid fourth place finish in the eighth and final race of the day. Carlson’s Day 1 performance was good enough to put her 11th amongst some very strong competitors.

“In junior sailing, she was first in the U.S. [Junior Women’s Singlehanded] Championship but then last in the high school championship,” Legler said. “The difference between the two races was the wind, and she is small so that makes a big difference in singlehanded sailing … However, she can beat people who have less skill, and she did.”

After six more races on Sunday, Carlson ultimately finished in 13th out of the 18 total sailors, ahead of the only other NESCAC competitor at Grand Valley, first-year AnaLucia Clarkson from Conn. College. Stanford’s Sakellaris who walked away victorious by just a single point from the weekend. A first-place finish on the 13th race all but clinched her victory, but Jacksonville first-year Charlotte Rose remarkably rolled off six straight top-two finishes on Sunday to ratchet up the pressure on her California competitor. Sakellaris dropped to fifth in the final race of the weekend, and any further fall would have dropped her out of the gold medal position.

“Overall it was a wonderful experience,” Carlson said. “It was a very competitive fleet so it was a difficult regatta for me for sure. It was pretty cold over there, so that part was pretty challenging.  My feet and my hands were frozen pretty much the entire time.”

Carlson looks to continue this momentum into the spring season.

The prestigious Women’s Singlehanded Nationals marks the end of the women’s sailing team’s competition season this fall, as the well-traveled crew participated in over 50 regattas in two months, everywhere from McGill to Bowdoin. The winter recess between the fall and spring seasons does not necessarily mean rest for the sailors, but it certainly allows time for reflection in the absence of immediate competition.

“We have one more event to go, but it is just a scrimmage with our alumni sailors and it is this weekend,” Legler said.