SMCM Wins National Sailing Team Racing Championship

MADISON, Wis. (June 1, 2010) — Over the extended Memorial Day weekend, the top 14 schools in the nation – as determined by their performance in one of the seven Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association conferences to which they belong – were in America’s Heartland racing for the 2010 ICSA/APS Team Race National Championship title on Lake Mendota. For one team, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (St. Mary’s, Md.), it was a reversal of fortune from 2009 when the Seahawks lost this championship on a tie breaker, to come back and win this year’s contest on a tie break with the same team – Boston College. Proving that they are a powerhouse in this format of sailing, the win marks the fifth time the Seahawks have clinched this unique championship which pits each college's three-boat team against another's in a round-robin series of matches.

The competition starts with the 14 teams divided into two groups; the first hurdle for the teams was finishing top four in their group. In Group 1, St. Mary’s (6-0), Tufts (5-1), Yale (4-2) and College of Charleston (4-2) moved on to the Gold Round. Northwestern University (2-4), Texas A&M Galveston (1-5) and the University of Hawaii (0-6) were out of contention for the national title at the conclusion of that round.

From Group 2, Boston College (6-0), Georgetown University (5-1), the U.S. Naval Academy (4-2) and the University of Wisconsin (3-3) progressed to the Gold Round, while Eckerd College (1-5), Stanford University (2-4) and the University of Washington (0-6) were also out of contention.

At the conclusion of the Gold Round, also known as the “elite eight,” the “final four“ race to determine the champion. The goal of the championship is to have the top four teams meet each other three times, which also allows for a tie break. This year’s event was a light air contest, and credit goes to the Race Committee for giving the sailors every opportunity to get races completed especially on the penultimate day of the championship (Sunday, May 30) when competitors were out sailing at 9 a.m. and finishing up about 8 p.m.

“When teams make the ‘elite eight,’ each team is capable of beating everyone else,” explained Adam Werblow, head varsity sailing coach at St. Mary’s College. “There is no easy win. Every team has worked damn hard to get here and they’ve accomplished a lot by the time they get to the championship round. That’s what makes it fun. There are simply no gimmes once you get into the elite eight.”

“In the first day, we were undefeated,” said senior skipper Ted Hale ‘10, of Annapolis, Md. “We didn’t fare quite as well on the second day, but we were still in the lead. By the time of the final four, the air was light. You had to keep your mind in the right place and keep calm. Every race in that last day was really close. There were no blow-outs.” Having graduated in May, this is Hale’s last college race, making it an even more special occasion as the Seahawks have not won the championship since 2007.

“What helped us is that we have a team who has worked together for a very long time,” said Werblow. “This team has been perfecting the skills of team racing and Bill Ward (varsity sailing coach) has been exceptional on coaching the details of how to team race well. The level of consistency that they’ve had is remarkable. With the support of our alumni we set the bar really high and we had a goal at the beginning of the year to win this championship.”

“Team racing is a lot like a chess game,” said senior crew Kelly Wilbur ‘10, of Ipswich, Mass. “There is a lot more strategy in team racing than in any other form of collegiate racing. To get this championship it took all 30 members of the sailing team.” Wilbur, who has been racing since she was four years old, discussed how much it meant to have St. Mary’s College alumni cheering from the sidelines: “I was so excited to have my parents at the race. There were also tons of alumni in a Seahawks cheering section, which meant a lot to the team. We could hear them as we left the dock.”

On the water for St. Mary’s were Hale with junior crew Francis Kupersmith (Alexandria, Va.), junior skipper Michael Menninger (Newport Harbor, Calif.) with Wilbur and senior skipper Jesse Kirkland (Warwick, Bermuda) with junior crew Madeline Jackson (Bainbridge Island, Wash.). For the last race of the championship, senior skipper Mike Kuschner (San Francisco, Calif.) sailed with Kupersmith, and Hale sailed with Wilbur.

“We have such a proud tradition and we are thrilled to be able to represent the school and one another,” summed up Werblow. “There are 30 kids on our team and 2,000 in the school. The 10 kids sailing here are representing the rest and feel really proud to regain the national title we covet so much.”

Final standings for the final four: St. Mary’s 12-5, Boston College 12-5, Georgetown 10-7 and Charleston 9-8. Complete results are available at:

St. Mary’s College has a long history of sailing championships. SMCM won the 2009 ICSA/GILL Co-ed National Dinghy Sailing Championship in San Francisco, the Superbowl of intercollegiate sailing. This marked the third time in program history that St. Mary’s College had captured the Co-ed Dinghy National Championship. Since 1993, the college has won 15 national sailing championships and produced more than 100 ICSA All-American sailors.

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