On June 3, seven St. Mary’s sailors and their coaches competed in this year’s Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association/Gill Coed Dinghy National Championship. Three days and 36 races later, the Seahawks succeeded in taking first place.
Originally ranked fourth, the team faced warm breezes and good competition against schools such as Yale University, Georgetown University, Old Dominion University, and Boston College.
Alumna Jen Chamberlain, seniors Jesse Kirkland, Mike Kuschner, Kelly Wilbur, and juniors Maddie Jackson, Megan Magill, and Michael Menninger made up the team that represented SMCM, and prepared all year for this summer’s ICSA national championship.
“Winning a national championship is the end goal for every college sailing team. Sailing is unique that you do not match up with one other school at one time but up to 17 other schools every weekend. Throughout the seasons (fall, spring) you are constantly racing against the best so across the board everyone is improving all year,” Chamberlain said of the regatta.
Menninger said, “Before a big regatta, like every sporting event, people get nervous and I tried my best to stay calm and run through the motions.” And running, or rather sailing, through the motions is exactly what the team did. With A-Division up first, Yale’s performance momentarily broke the Hawk’s seven-point lead. Kirkland, Jackson, and Magill came back and finished 13-5 to tie the two leading teams. “We have been working all year towards the Nationals. After school ended, we continued our training at Point Lookout and then over in Santa Cruz, CA to better ourselves in the conditions present in San Francisco,” said Kirkland. And their year-round dedication continued to show as the event went on.
The Hawks continued to gain on Yale when the B-Division put the team ahead. However, after a photo finish by the A-Division, it was up to the B-Division to bring the team back down in points. “Most National championships come down to the last few races. In our case it came down to us and Yale at the end and our job was to beat them,” said Wilbur of the close scores. “After our second place finish at Team Race Nationals, the team kind of regrouped and we lit a fire under ourselves. We knew we were inches from the team race title and we just wanted more. We went sailing and had a great time and the outcome reflected our hard work and devotion,” she continued.
Chamberlain also described the extremely close competition towards the very end. “Turning a 9th [place] to a 7th [place] or a 12th [place] to a 10th [place] is so important because your goal is to have to lowest amount of points… St. Mary’s was leading for the first two days with a nice buffer of points between us and Georgetown and Yale. The third day Yale fought hard and had a lead over us in the final races.” Looking back on the final race Chamberlain recalls watching Kirkland and Menninger “so far ahead of the rest of the fleet really fighting it out. Yale was leading by three points going into the last set…very exciting.”
In the final race Chamberlain and Menninger posted a 6-1 over Yale’s 14-16, putting the Hawks in first place by twenty points over Yale. Yale competed hard Menninger comments, “With the competition being so tight, it was really close to the end.”
This is the third time in the college’s history to take the title. But according to Kirkland, “having everybody sail in the Championship, that was a true team victory.”