Historical successes benefit sailing

Sailing put in strong showings at the Storm Trysail Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta in Larchmont last weekend, placing eighth, and at the Lark Invitational hosted by Tufts on Oct. 8 and 9, where the team finished sixth overall.

The Larchmont event is the only event of the year in which sailing participates on yachts. The Larchmont races featured 400 college sailors from across the country, paired with volunteer yacht owners and experienced offshore racers in a two-day event. Despite a collective lack of yacht experience, the team placed eighth overall. The Ephs improved their placement over the course of the event, with individual finishes of 10th in the first race, eighth in the second and sixth in the final race on Saturday. Racing was cancelled on Day Two due to insufficient wind.

The Lark Invitational was a standard dinghy race with two divisions of fleet racing. Both boats finished in 10th in their division. Williams earned a No. 6 ranking in a field of 13 schools.

“It was quite breezy all day, but we managed to stay upright and get good mid-fleet finishes in both the A and B Divisions,” captain Andrew Lorenzon ’12 said.

The Lark Invitational was part of the fall schedule for the prestigious New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association (NEISA). Williams is a founding member of NEISA. Williams completed its first active season in 1935. The team won two consecutive national championships in 1939 and 1940 while going undefeated in multi-team regattas. The team also produced a professional sailor: Skipper Robert N. Bavier ’40 captained the winning yacht Constellation in 1964. Although the Ephs again won the Intercollegiate Championship in 1952, the 1950s and 1960s saw the slow decline and disappearance of the team. One story in The Williams Record from the mid-1960s noted that the team received so little support from the College that sailors were hitchhiking to regattas.

Apparently extinct by 1970, Williams Sailing was revived in 1976 through the efforts of Professor Carl Van Duyne, who had raced in the Finn class in the 1968 Olympics and placed third in the 1970 Finn World Championships. His initiative met strong student interest, and the reformed team began to compete again. Out of respect for the role played by the College in the formation and early years of NEISA, the league agreed to reinstate the club’s full membership, bypassing the standard period of associate membership required under its rules. Despite this renewed activity, the club failed to secure sufficient funding from the College, and for the next two decades, the team lacked boats and could not host regattas. However, following an article in the Record about the team’s victory at the United States Merchant Marine Academy, at which point an alumnus anonymously donated $60,000 to the team.

Since that donation, the team has practiced and hosted friendly regattas with the six 420 dinghies purchased with the money, although the team has been in the process of trying to upgrade its fleet for the past few years. With the help of College Council, the team recently purchased two gently used FJs, the current dinghy of choice in NEISA, both of which arrived earlier this season. The current team is also committed to welcoming novices to the sport.

“We are trying to restore the team to its glory days,” Josh Revkin ’13 said. “And a really important part of this team is how open it is to newcomers.”

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