New London, Ct.--(9/30/12)--At the 2012 Women's Singlehanded New England Championship, hosted by Connecticut College out of Mitchell Beach, Coast Guard's Lauren Cefali and Christina Frost both earned berths to the ICSA Women's Singlehanded National Championship after sailing consistently at the top of a very talented fleet which included a past national champion and several who had finished in the top-5. This is the first time in the program's history that two sailors have qualified for a singlehanded event.
On day one of competition, light wind and a strong outgoing current made for very difficult racing for the fleet of New England's 18 strongest singlehanded sailors. With each competitor having similar boat speed, it took a sound strategy and quick decision making to put together solid races.
Frost came out of the gates strong, never finishing outside of the top-6 in the first five races. Cefali got off to a bit of a slower start but quickly made the proper adjustments, which propelled her to the top of the fleet.
"Going into last race on Saturday we knew we had to close the day strong," explained head intercollegiate sailing coach Brian Swingly. "The forecast for Sunday was for even lighter wind and the potential for no racing was certainly there."
The Lady Bears charged off the starting line in race 6 and were in first and second for the first lap of the race. At the finish line, Frost took the top spot – her first race-win of college sailing – with Cefali finishing third. This put both sailors in qualifying positions going into Sunday, with many of the Nation's best right on their heels.
On Sunday morning, sailors and coaches were pleasantly surprised by a 6-8 knot northerly across the racecourse to begin the day. Only two races were completed before this breeze died.
"The first two races on Sunday didn't change the standings within the top group but established a solid top-7 who would be battling for the five berths," said Swingly. "We knew every point was going to be tough and it would come down to the final race."
After a long wait a sea breeze finally developed in which the final five races of the regatta would be sailed. The Bears quickly drew up a new game plan for the change in conditions, taking into account the upwind current and much longer downwind legs.
Cefali sailed impressively well under the pressure, finishing outside of the top-4 only once in the final five races to solidify her 2nd overall finish.
"Lauren's speed off the staring line was the key to her success throughout the weekend and was a determining factor at the end of the event," commented Swingly.
Frost continued to sail strong in the final races but was facing a charge from Yale's Emily Billing and Clair Dennis, two seniors who had qualified in each of the past three years. Benefiting from a struggling Sky Adams from Brown, Frost found herself in 3rd going into the last race and 14 points ahead of 6th place Urska Kosir from Yale.
"The heat was on for the final race for sure," said Swingly. "The sailors from Yale were sailing very well, Billing in particular. We knew Christi was still safe but couldn't put up a big number."
Despite finding an unlucky shift on the final run and posting her highest score of the event, Frost came to the finish line in 14th, just edging out Kosir for the final qualifying spot by two points.
Cefali finished 2nd with 67 points and only one double-digit finish during the entire event. Frost finished with 79 points to put her in 5th overall.
Erika Reineke from Boston College won the championship with 30 points. Dennis finished 3rd with 73 points and Billing 4th with 74. These five will represent New England at the ICSA Women's Singlehanded National Championship at the University of Southern California on November 2-4.
"This is a tremendous achievement for these two women and the entire team," said Swingly. "We've had success at both the New England and National Championships in the past but this will be the first time Coast Guard will send two sailors. It was a complete team effort to prepare them for the event, which will continue as we get ready for Nationals."
Next weekend the coed team will have the weekend off while the Lady Bears head to Annapolis for the Navy Fall Women's Interconference Regatta hosted by the Naval Academy. This three-division event will feature the country's top sailors in FJs, 420s, and Laser Radials.
Christi and Lauren were all smiles after being dunked in the Thames by their teamates upon return to Jacobs Rock.