ST. PETERSBURG, FL (February 14-15, 2015): The 2015 spring college sailing season officially began off at the SAISA Open hosted by Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. The SAISA Open is NC State sailing’s largest event this season with 20 teams at the regatta representing most of the active programs in the conference in both North and South divisions. Eckerd College’s waterfront, and a fleet of brand new Whitecap FJs, proved to be a perfect combination with close beachside seating for spectators and 70-degree weather, a welcome change of venue from sub-zero Raleigh.
Photo (c) Cole Barclay
On Saturday, NC State sailors opened the regatta with a quick start and in the first race of the day, A-fleet senior skipper David Rogers (Mt. Pleasant, SC) and sophomore crew Jackie Welles (Oriental, NC) earned a lead over the entire fleet for most of the regatta including the first three legs, finishing 2nd of 20. “I was really nervous and then the first race put me at ease. It let me know I could handle this new level of college racing,” says Jackie Welles, a redshirt sophomore with only two semesters on the squad.
With racing starting in a light Northerly, conditions were spotty and shifty. After a delay enjoyed by all of the sailors on a very warm, sunny day, the seabreeze finally filled in, delivering steady wind and hiking conditions. NC State A-fleet would finish the regatta 13th in their fleet, 5th in their division with 119 points, just a few behind SAISA North rival Georgia Tech.
Great conditions towards the end of Saturday. Photo courtesy of SAISA.
“David has built a solid college sailing career and knows his way around A-fleet in a tough regatta. To see the solid teamwork in this new pairing between Jackie and him click so early was great,” said NC State head coach Dana Magliola. “They’ve both brought solid focus and drive. It pays and it will be fun to watch this season.”
Rogers and Welles heading out to the race course on Saturday morning's light breeze.
Photo (c) Cole Barclay
NC State’s B-fleet also debuted the new pairing of freshman skipper Mark Thompson (Cary, NC) and junior crew and Race Team Captain Paulina Spencer (Raleigh, NC). The SailPack B-fleet also had some strong finishes in the 20 boat fleet posting a 3rd and 6th in races over the course of the regatta. Their new pairing paid early, as well, and they finished the regatta in a strong 9th place, just a few points behind a veteran SAISA South varsity University of South Florida squad. They finished third of SAISA North teams in the regatta.
A view across the fleet as sailors head to the upwind mark. Photo courtesy of SAISA.
“Paulina really shows how much she’s learned sailing in these top regattas for the past two seasons," said SailPack assistant coach Benton Morton. “Now she’s using what she knows – especially with time on the water in St. Petersburg – to round out a very competitive pairing with freshman Mark Thompson.”
Wind conditions, especially around the upwind mark were tricky and sailors found themselves caught in a couple of tight situations. NC State sailor Mark Thompson commented, “The wind at the upwind mark was the shiftiest due to how it was set next to the shoreline. We found that choosing the correct side of the course to approach the mark was essential in doing well.”
Photo (c) Cole Barclay
The wind overall on Saturday was light with constant shifts and puffs until the afternoon when the sea breeze filled in. When it did, on the final rotation of the day, freshman crew James Stonecypher (Chapel Hill, NC) joined Rogers in A-fleet.
North Carolina college sailing teams out in force with (L to R) NC State, Duke, UNCW and UNC.
On Sunday the wind was substantially stronger than Saturday with powerful gusts causing numerous boats to capsize throughout the day. B-fleet started the racing for the day and completed 3 rotations and A-fleet sailed 2, giving each division an even 10 races. On Sunday there were a few technical issues with the new FJs, such as the loss of a couple tiller extensions and a destepped mast. Luckily NC State sailors avoided those issues. Throughout racing on Sunday, NC State worked hard to narrow Duke’s lead and by the end of the day was only a single point shy, finishing the 2015 SAISA Open in 11th overall, fourth in SAISA North, and a couple shades tanner. Congratulations to the Jacksonville University Dolphins for the big win at this year’s SAISA Open and many thanks to Eckerd College for hosting. Full scores and information can be found here: http://scores.collegesailing.org/s15/saisa-open/.
About the Author: Kara Wheeler is a freshman, mechanical engineering student from Oriental, North Carolina. She's been sailing her whole life and will remind you that she's also been awesome during that time if you were wondering. This spring is her second semester sailing on the NC State squad and she competes as a skipper in both co-ed and women's division events. She recently competed in Sunfish World Championships in the summer of 2014 placing 68th in the world. The world dude.