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Sailing starts off strong

After just one regatta, the USF sailing team is already setting its sights on district finals.

Sunday, USF walked away from the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association South Points One Regatta with a first-place finish over district rivals Eckerd College and the University of Florida. The varsity team’s victory counts toward a berth in the district regatta later in the fall, which in turn gives them an opportunity to qualify for the Atlantic Coast Championship.

“The race this weekend is part of a five-race circuit that would qualify us for the district regatta,” USF Sailing Coach Stephanie Doyle said. “This win already puts us in a good position to get to the regatta.”

The regatta, hosted by Eckerd College, was run on Boca Ciega Bay under ripe conditions for sailing with an 8-12-knot wind coming out of the northwest.

“In the beginning (the wind) was really light, and we were handling the conditions well and then the wind started to pick up,” USF sailor Ashley Reynolds said. “It was beautiful weather, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

The varsity ‘B’ team, comprising sophomores Reynolds and Kristen Herman, outdid the competition, claiming four of six first-place finishes. Things did not look so well for the duo at the beginning of the day when, in the first race, the team’s boat broke down due to a faulty mast shroud pin. The pair was given the average of the rest of their races once it was determined nothing could have been done about the breakdown.

“It was totally out of our hands,” Reynolds said. “(The broken piece) was in such a position (that) we could not check it beforehand, and we had to put it behind us and keep sailing.”

After the Herman and Reynolds breakdown, the wind began shifting to the right side of the course, which the two were able to capitalize on by making tighter turns on the right side of the course and decreasing their total time. After the breakdown, the pair wound up finishing 1-2-1-1-1.

Andrew Blom and Amber Cockburn, both seniors, made up the varsity ‘A’ team and finished 3-1-3-2-1-5, to bring the final team score up to 22, tying first place with Eckerd. With tied teams split on the number of first-place finishes, the Bulls’ six first-place finishes earned them the overall victory.

“(Blom and Cockburn) did something very well, and there are some things they need to working on,” Doyle said. “It is just because they have never sailed together.”

The Florida varsity team could only finish in front of the Florida junior varsity team. USF’s junior varsity team finished fourth overall.

The Bulls’ next regatta is at home in St. Petersburg on Saturday where they host Rollins, Florida State, Georgia, Florida and Eckerd.