Women’s sailing takes fifth consecutive national championship berth

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Juniors Sarah Noyes and Aitana Mendiguren race on the Potomac River at the GW Women's Invite last April.

Updated: April 22, 2019 at 7:43 p.m.

Women’s sailing clinched a national berth at the Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association Championship in New York this weekend.

The No. 8 Colonials placed third in the regatta, qualifying them for their fifth consecutive spring Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s Nationals. Prior to the regatta, sailors said the squad’s senior leadership and sailing prowess helped propel the 7-year-old program into a top-10 sailing team.

Half of the team’s 12-member roster is comprised of seniors, and the squad returned nine sailors from last season.

“The thing that kind of sets apart this women’s team and our whole team in general has been how much pride the senior class is taking in leaving the team in a better position than they got it, and I hope that continues,” head coach Billy Martin said.

Four seniors and two juniors competed in the regatta this weekend. Seniors Riley Legault and Alexandra Fayer sailed together in the A Division while juniors Aitana Mendiguren and Sarah Noyes sailed in the B Division. Seniors Emma Mendenhall and Marie Line were extras in the competition.

Legault and Fayer set the tone for the Colonials Saturday with a second-place finish in race one. The senior duo continued their success, earning a first, second, fourth and sixth-place finish in the day’s races.

The Colonials sailed into second place on Saturday with seven top-five finishes. The team recorded top-10 finishes in all 10 races, putting it 10 points behind first-place Pennsylvania.

The Colonials faltered in the first race Sunday, finishing 15th out of 16 teams. But the squad bounced back and placed in the top 10 in the next 18 races, 12 of which were top-five finishes.

Cornell gained on GW throughout the second day of competition, capturing second place in the regatta, 24 points below the Colonials. The team ended the day with a third-place finish and a qualifying bid for the ICSA Women’s Nationals.

Legault, Fayer and Mendenhall all have past MAISA Championship experience. Mendenhall sailed in the A Division of the 2016 MAISA Championship and helped the team capture its second program championship.

Legault and Fayer sailed to a fourth-place finish in the B Division of the MAISA Championship in 2017 and helped the team break into third. The duo teamed up again in 2018 to help the Colonials reach a fifth-place team finish.

Mendenhall said the team’s roster is full of strong sailors who can step in and compete at a high caliber.

“We are really deep, so we have a lot of layers of people,” Mendenhall said. “We can always switch people in, switch people out, without worrying about whether we’re still going to do well because everyone has their own assets and skills.”

The team’s national results have increased for the past two seasons. The Colonials placed 13th in 2017 and 12th in last season’s national competition. Martin said the women’s team carried the momentum created during last season’s nationals to dominate throughout this season.

“The women’s team has been really strong all year, and we have slowly been building on our success from last year because we had a lot of returning players,” Martin said.

The women’s team placed in the top half in five of its seven regattas in the spring. Martin said the Colonials’ recent success can be attributed to their attention to detail and motivation.

“It is tough to get in the top 20, let alone in the top eight, and they’ve earned it,” he said. “Every event, they’ve just risen levels.”

On March 30 and 31, the women’s team had its best finish at the Dellenbaugh Trophy regatta. The squad finished fourth in a field of 18 teams and beat out two top-10 competitors – then-No. 5 Cornell and then-No. 7 MIT.

But the co-ed team, which included Legault, senior Mercedes McPhee and sophomore Clare Cassidy-Gardner, missed a chance to qualify at the Prosser Trophy regatta for the Intercollegiate Sailing Association Team Race National Championship earlier this month. Martin said the regatta taught the team to remain at peak performance throughout the entirety of every competition.

“The women’s team realizes that to be the best, you have to be the best at all times, dominant at all times,” he said. “Just attention to detail until that race and take nothing for granted.”

Approaching the ICSA Women’s Nationals May 21 and 24, freshman Sarah Hardee said the team needs to remain confident in its abilities and competitive to succeed in future regattas.

“We need to compete at the level we’ve been competing at this entire season,” Hardee said. “We’ve been doing really well and we’ve been on a good streak and we just need to continue our confidence and our competitiveness.”

The Colonials are back in action at the America’s Trophy regatta in New York and the Arrigan Trophy regatta in Virginia Saturday and Sunday.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that women’s sailing qualified for its fourth consecutive championship. The team qualified for its fifth straight championship. We regret this error.

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