Sailing breaks three-season Co-ed Nationals qualifying streak

The Colonials took fourth place at the national regatta – their highest finish in program history.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Seniors Alexandra Fayer and Riley Legault race in the GW Women's Invite last April.

Sailing narrowly missed an Intercollegiate Sailing Association Co-ed National Championship berth this weekend at the America Trophy regatta.

The No. 15 team’s 10th-place finish at the Mid-Atlantic ICSA Co-ed Championship placed the Colonials outside the top nine spots to qualify for the national competition. The loss broke the squad’s three-season ICSA Co-ed Nationals qualifying streak.

“This certainly was extremely disappointing – us not qualifying – but at the same time, we almost had pressure to perform and qualify for every nationals,” head coach Billy Martin said. “We just had an off weekend, and I think it’s a privilege to have that pressure and have that kind of expectation.”

The Colonials qualified for the ICSA Co-ed National Championship in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The squad grabbed a fourth-place finish in 2016, a fifth-place finish in 2017 and a seventh-place finish in 2018 at the MAISA Conference Championship.

The Colonials started the first day of competition on a high note, taking first place in a boat skippered and crewed by senior Andrew Sheerin and junior Zach Lehan. But a series of eighth- and ninth-place finishes bogged down the team.

Martin said the winds on the course were strong and difficult to sail through. Sheerin’s boat capsized, causing him to miss the rest of Saturday’s competition.

“The conditions were really wild and to have one of your top players get injured or see your top player get injured is tough,” Martin said. “The next-man-up mentality for people is to jump in and to fight hard to get some good points for us.”

During the fifth race in the B Division, the squad finished third – the second-highest finish for the Colonials Saturday. The team followed up with a series of higher finishes to close out Saturday with 186 points, 15 points shy of a qualifying position for the national competition.

Martin said the team focused on maintaining its composure heading into Sunday.

“The big thing was just not to panic, just to stay calm and let the other teams panic and get stressed out,” Martin said. “Sunday we were in 10th place, we weren’t in qualifying position so we were kind of on the hunt to make up the points.”

The squad tried to play catch-up and beat the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy for ninth place Sunday, but the team fell short with only four races left in the day. A disqualification combined with a fifth-, seventh- and 11th-place finish brought the Colonials within six points of the Mariners, but they could not complete the comeback.

Martin said that once the Colonials fell behind on the water, coaching them became difficult because he watched the team race from land.

“It was tough because once the boats are on the water in a scenario like that, the coaching isn’t that easy because they’re not on land with me,” Martin said. “You have to rely on them for their training to take over, and I think they did a good job of picking up the points.”

The team sent five seniors, three juniors and two freshmen to the regatta. Sheerin, Lehan and senior Connor West competed in the A Division, and seniors Riley Legault and Alexandra Fayer and junior Sarah Noyes competed in the B Division. Junior Michael Houllahan, senior Derek Poon-tip and freshmen Matt Logue and Cameron Feves were substitutes.

With two freshmen competing alongside a slew of seniors, Martin said he is “excited” about the development of the freshman class heading into next season.

“I’m excited at how well they’ve come throughout the season,” Martin said. “The seniors bring them along, show them good leadership and teach them everything they can at practice and off the water and everything.”

Despite missing out on a qualifying position this season, Fayer and Sheerin returned to GW with All-Conference honors. Fayer earned first-team all-crew honors and Sheerin received second-team all-skipper honors.

Senior Wade Wagner also earned the LT Robert H. Purrington Trophy over the weekend. The award is given to graduating seniors at the MAISA Conference who exhibit sportsmanship and commitment to college sailing.

The Colonials are back in action from May 21 to 24 for their fifth consecutive appearance at the ICSA Women’s National Championship.

Belle Long contributed reporting.

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