by Rich Roberts
The top 36 college sailing teams in the country will compete in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s Western and Eastern Coed Semifinals Saturday and Sunday at the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, one of the world's best amphitheaters for sailing.
Inter Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) college logo ICSA logo
The event is hosted and organized by the United States Sailing Center–Long Beach and the University of Southern California Varsity Sailing Team.
Each team has earned a spot via respective district championship regattas. While taking place simultaneously, these West and East semifinals are separate regattas. The top nine teams from each group will advance to the ICSA/Gill Coed National Championship May 30-June 1 at the Gorge, Cascade Locks in Oregon.
While divided into two fleets---East and West---the arrangement, like the NCAA basketball playoff brackets, has no regard for geography. Boston College is in the Western group while Stanford and UCLA earned spots in the Eastern group via the Collegiate Pacific Coast Championships that was hosted at the same site earlier this month.
One of the favorites, Taylor Canfield of defending champion Boston College, should almost feel at home. Last month the U.S. Virgin Islands resident competed in the Congressional Cup before spectators on the pier, but that's where comparisons end.
This time Canfield and his rivals will be racing not the hefty Catalina 37s, but 13-foot 3-inch CFJ dinghies that consist of two-person crews, alternating men and women to fit the conditions.
Roger Williams University of Bristol, R.I., is among the favorites with BC, Georgetown and Charleston after jumping to the top of Sailing World magazine's latest college rankings this week. The home team of USC will also be vying for a spot at the nationals on home waters.
Racing is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and 10:15 a.m. Sunday, conditions permitting. Admission to the racing is free. Pre- and post-racing activities will be based at the US Sailing Center–Long Beach. Buoy’s Restaurant at the end of the pier will provide snacks, refreshments and an excellent view of the racing.
Boston College Coach Greg Wilkinson, recognized as national college sailing coach of the year by US Sailing in 2010, has coached the Eagles to ICSA titles in various divisions---coed, women's, team racing, match racing, sloop, women's singlehanded---but most cherishes collecting the Fowle Trophy for the best overall record in all disciplines in 2008 and 2009.
'I would say that probably means more the strength of our team than anything else,' he said. 'It's a combination of championships, so to win that is pretty difficult.'
Wilkinson explained that the semifinals were divided until 2008 when they were combined in Boston Harbor as part of the Volvo Ocean Race special events that year. They returned to the separate format last year … and realized what they were missing.
'Having done it both ways,' Wilkinson said, 'we realized that having both regattas in the same place made it feel much more like a championship event. I think it's nice that both regattas are in the same place. It brings all the teams to one spot.'
Performing at the pier this year should be even more fun.
'I've never sailed an event off the pier,' Wilkinson said, 'so I'm looking forward to that.'
It also may be warmer than the East /Coast, but 'the weather doesn't matter much,' Wilkinson said.
'We start practicing the first weekend in March every year. We have a spring break training trip when we go down South to Eckerd College in Florida to train for five days, and when we return we start practicing in our regular venue. We get a wide range of weather in the spring in Boston Harbor. it could be in the 40s or the 60s. When it's cold we just wear more clothes.'
Long Beach should be warm but could possibly have challenging sailing conditions this weekend. The long-range forecast is for what locals call Santa Ana conditions: warm, dry easterly or northeasterly winds of 8 to 10 knots blowing in from the inland deserts, instead of the usual southwesterlies funneling through the San Pedro Channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland.
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OLD DOMINION UNIVERSITY
UC LOS ANGELES
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE OF MARYLAND
HOBART AND WILLIAM SMITH COLLEGE
SUNY MARITIME COLLEGE
ROGER WILLIAMS UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
UC SANTA BARBARA
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS