For the second time this spring, the Penn Sailing Team piled itself into a vehicle to travel 5 hours south to Norfolk Virginia. However, this time was different – there was much more riding on the outcome of this weekend’s event, and we brought a much bigger team with us. The Quakers in the car included Jack Swikart, Drew Gallagher, Keen Butcher, Catie Hopkins, Patricia Andrade, Lucy Sergeant and coach Billy Martin, and they were headed to the America Trophy, the final test for the Mid-Atlantic conference and the qualifier for Nationals. This year, the top 9 teams would make it and get the opportunity to travel to Newport, RI for Coed Semifinals.
After an eventful ride down, the team got a good night’s rest before day 1 of the event. Catie and I started in A Division while Drew and Pati started in B. The breeze on Saturday was light-to-medium but reasonably steady (at least at first). Catie and I sailed to a 12, 9 while Drew did even better with a 6, 4; so after one set (2 races in each division) we were in good shape in 7th place. However, we knew we had to stay consistent because the series might not be more than 6-8 races total given the forecast for light air all weekend. While that is a strong point for our team, not having enough races can doom any squad, but we were ready. Catie and I went out and had our strongest set of the regatta with a 1, 2 before handing things back to Drew. Unfortunately a combination of being early at the start and untimely fouls caused Drew to suffer an 18, 11, but even with those finishes we were still in good shape. After all, at a conference championship everyone is bound to make mistakes. Catie and I took to the water again in a dying breeze to attempt more races, and despite making countless mistakes of our own managed to come up with a reasonably consistent 13, 8. Although the race committee sent B Division out for their next set, the wind simply would not cooperate, and forced us to end the day there. After 6 A races and 4 B races, we were uncomfortably in 9th place, a mere 4 points in front of 10th. After a good dinner we got back to the hotel and skipped the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight in order to get our rest.
Sunday came with conditions just like the forecast had called for – a dying breeze that made Saturday look like ideal conditions. Luckily they were able to quickly get off races 5B and 6B, in which Drew and Pati managed a consistent 6, 9 scoreline putting us in 8th with a 7 point cushion over Hobart, the 9th place team. Catie and I went out again in truly marginal conditions and had another great set – with our 9, 2 we were tied for 4th in A Division. However, these races and scores are to be lost to history, since the breeze shut off and did not fully return. While the RC attempted race 7B multiple times, there was never enough wind to finish it. Thus, the two A Division scores we got were thrown out, but on the bright side we had qualified for Nationals again!
At the awards, new captain Catie Hopkins was honored as an All-MAISA crew for the year and is the first Penn sailor to receive that honor. Mac Agnese was honored as an All-Conference skipper last year, but Catie is our first All-MAISA Crew. Congratulations Catie! Also at the awards, I was honored with the Robert H. Purrington Award for Student Leadership and Service. The award is given to the senior in MAISA who embodies both leadership and service both on their team and in the conference. It’s been a privilege to be the captain of the Penn team for two years as well as the undergraduate president of MAISA this past year, and it was nice to receive recognition from the conference leadership.
Now the team will dive into exams before beginning preparations for Nationals in June! The team hopes to improve on its performance last year at St. Mary’s by making the national finals. See you all in Newport!
Jack Swikart ‘15
Full scores from America Trophy can be found at: http://scores.collegesailing.org/s15/america/full-scores/