Problems galore as Bulls fall short of nationals

The USF sailing team came up short in its bid to earn a spot at the national sailing championships in Hawaii.

The team finished third in dinghies and fourth in the team event. It needed to finish in the top two at the regatta hosted by the College of Charleston to earn a trip to nationals.

Head coach Stephanie Doyle said, while she is disappointed, she thought her team competed well.

“I’m really proud of the kids,” Doyle said. “They sailed spectacularly.”

Doyle said the Bulls losing wasn’t as disappointing as how they lost.

In the dinghy competition, the team went into the afternoon races just behind heavily favored College of Charleston and seven points ahead of third place Eckerd. But a disappointing afternoon run left the team in third, one point away from qualification.

“We just had a bad wind shift and just ended up losing all of those seven points in one race,” Doyle said.

In the three-man team competition, the team competed in a tie-breaker heat against Eckerd. The tie-breaker was forced after Eckerd was upset by the underdog University of Florida team. The Bulls won the tie-breaker race, which would have secured them a spot in Hawaii but, due to an oversight, were given a tough choice moments later.

“There was a bit of an ethical dilemma we were faced with. One of our kids hit a buoy and didn’t realize it,” Doyle said. “The option was to keep the race and go to nationals or to withdraw from the race and not go to nationals. The team talked about it and decided to withdraw from the race.”

Doyle said she did not see the boat strike the buoy, which, in sailing, requires a penalty. But she said all of the committee members agreed that there had been an infraction.

Doyle said, while the decision was difficult, she was proud of the team and felt they made the right choice.

“It’s a very hard way not to go,” she said. “(But) I think that’s going to help our reputation. Actually, it wasn’t a disappointment. It was the satisfaction that we tried as hard as we could.”

The weekend got off to an ominous start for the team. Doyle said she lost the services of team member Andi Paolella after she was ill and forced to be hospitalized. Doyle said she was forced to miss part of the regatta as she accompanied Paolella.

“Luck wasn’t on our side this weekend,” she said. “It was an interesting weekend. It took a lot out of us.”

The team will have one final chance to qualify for Hawaii in the women’s district competition. That event will take place April 20-21 at USF St. Petersburg.

Rob Brannon covers sailing and can be reached at