Sports sailing

Synchronization and trust are essential in competitive sailing

Editor’s note: In this first edition of ‘know your sport’ we turn the spotlight on sailing.

Sailing is a varsity sport, and a rather intricate one too. It may be common knowledge that it involves racing with yachts, but the details of how competitions are conducted and scored, and what kinds of preparation go into training for events and regattas, are lesser-known. Don’t worry! We have you covered. 

Competitions can take on a variety of forms. Obviously, the major metric is how fast you can sail and who can get to the finish line first. But at the collegiate level, there usually isn’t just one race. Depending on the size of the regatta, each team can compete in anywhere from six to 20 races. Some events last a single day while others span an entire weekend.

Often, each university is represented by an A and a B fleet to sail - sometimes a C if the regatta is large enough. Each fleet competes numerous times and its score in an individual race corresponds to the place it finishes in. The scores from each fleet are added together to form the team’s collective score. After all the races within a regatta have been completed, and all the scores have been tallied, the teams are ranked based on who had the lowest total across the competition.

In collegiate races, there are two students on each yacht, and their responsibilities can be broken down into two positions - skipper and crew. Skippers are responsible for steering the ship and utilizing the mainsail. The crew operates the jib, giving the boat added steering, power, and balance.

This past weekend, Trevor Long ’19 skippered for MIT’s A fleet, with crew Paige Omura ’17 and Marcus Abate ’20. Stephen Duncan ’20 skippered the B fleet with Brooke McGoldrick ’20 as his crew. While distinct, their roles are very connected, and the two positions absolutely rely on one another.

Noa Yoder ’19 has been a part of the MIT varsity team since her freshman year and the level of trust is something she admires about the sport.

“Sailing requires a huge amount of teamwork, not with a whole field of players but between the skipper and crew,” Yoder said. “They need to really be in sync and trust each other. That’s what makes it different because most sports don’t require that [level of] synchronization between two people.”

To prepare for the regattas and build confidence among one another, MIT’s sailing team practices four days a week for three hours, in addition to weight-training sessions. They practice drills that focus on particular maneuvers and techniques.

Some skills, like starting, are incredibly crucial during a race, so it’s important to have these methods down pat. Weight, wind conditions, and a variety of other factors are important to consider during a competition and understanding the tactics for handling them can have a major impact on performance.

Now that you know the basics behind the sport and what goes into it, support the Engineers at their next competition. They will be hosting the Firefly and FJ Invite this coming weekend on the Charles and will be competing in the Oberg Trophy hosted by Northeastern the weekend after.