The USF sailing team nears the season’s home stretch as it competes in two regattas this weekend, one being the last South Points District event.
With national competition just weeks away, the team holds a strong position in the South Points District standings. The top teams in the five South Points events will advance to district competition.
Team head coach Stephanie Doyle said with just this weekend’s South Points event remaining, the team has already earned a qualification spot.
“All we need to do is just sail in the last (South Points) regatta,” she said.
Doyle said the ultimate goal for the team is to compete in the national championships May 26-June 7 in Hawaii. She said to make it to that level, the team will have to finish first or second out of 18 teams in upcoming district competition. That will be difficult, as the team will face tough rivals Florida, Florida State and Eckerd. Doyle said despite the stiff competition, she feels the team can advance.
“I think we can make it,” she said. “This is the best I’ve felt about a team. All the hard work is going to get them there.”
Doyle said the team has gotten a good idea this season of the level of competition it will face as it advances into national regattas. A difficult non-district schedule has pitted the team this season against such sailing powerhouses as the College of Charleston and Yale.
Doyle said sailing against the stronger competition has given her team a chance to improve.
“We’ve been doing well in district,” she said. “Out of district, we’ve been getting a lot of great experience.”
With respectable performances against this tougher competition, the team has been just outside the top 20 throughout the year.
“We’re still flirting in the top 20,” Doyle said. “We’re not quite there yet consistently.”
In addition to the South Points event at Georgia Tech, the team will compete at the Intrepid Trophy at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Competing at multiple events during a weekend is not unusual for the sailing team. On many weekends, the team will sail at two or three regattas.
Doyle said with the multiple events, some of her inexperienced sailors are given the chance to compete. She said this is important on a team comprised of walk-ons, some of whom had never sailed before.
“We’ve developed a lot of new sailors who are going to keep us in the front in the future,” Doyle said. “We went from being a team with three solid skippers to a team with eight or nine top skippers.”
Rob Brannon covers sailing and can be reached at email@example.com