USF sails into national championships

A week away from classes.

A free trip halfway around the world.

Four days sailing through the blue waters of an island paradise.

It sounds like the perfect vacation, but head sailing coach Stephanie Doyle said her women’s team is all business as it readies for today’s national championships in Hawaii.

“I think the team is very focused and obviously very excited,” Doyle said. “They’re also probably a little nervous.”

The team earned the trip to the national regatta after defeating the heavily favored College of Charleston a month ago in the district championships held at USF’s St. Petersburg campus.

Today’s competition marks the first time a USF team has been invited to a national regatta. Doyle said there are a lot of unknowns for the team.

“They don’t really know what to expect,” she said. “But they’re really excited.”

Of concern for the team will be the competition conditions in Hawaii, which are far different from those in which the Bulls normally compete.

Doyle said wind speeds in Hawaii are usually much higher than the east coast, where most of the Bull’s regular season regattas are held. She said, however, the wind speed in Tampa Bay during the past few weeks has been greater than normal, allowing the team to train in near-race conditions.

“We’ve been really lucky with the wind,” Doyle said. “We’ve been able to have some heavy wind practices, which is pretty unusual for Florida this time of the year.”

Also a concern for the team is its monthlong break from competition and the fact that it was forced to endure nine hours worth of plane rides. Doyle said she arranged the travel schedule so that the team would arrive on Sunday and have a few days to rest.

“We’re just going to kind of get there and relax,” she said. “So hopefully that’ll keep the nerves down.”

Doyle said the competition will run until Saturday. She said the Bulls will face such national powerhouse teams as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Old Dominion and Brown. She said with such stiff competition, she simply wants her team to compete well and have fun.

“We’re hoping for a top-12,” she said. “We’ll be happy with that for our first nationals.”