Scandal, criticism, mid-season coaching changes — Stanford Sailing endured it all en route to bronze at this year’s spring Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Team Race National Championships, recording the best performance for the team since back-to-back third-place finishes in 2014-15.
Stanford’s 17-8 record in the team event was topped only by Yale (21-4) and Georgetown (20-5).
The Stanford mast stood strong in the other two national competitions as well, with the women finishing 11th and the co-ed squad finishing eighth overall. But it was the team championship medal that added flair to a season placed under the microscope for reasons unrelated to the athletes’ performances on the water.
After former head coach John Vandemoer was fired in March for his role in the college admissions cheating scandal orchestrated by William “Rick” Singer, longtime assistant coach Clinton Hayes took the helm as interim head coach.
Assistant coach Belle Strachan, already in her first year on The Farm, found herself in the spotlight and on a coaching staff of only two people overseeing multiple teams of sailors.
But the duo didn’t look back, and neither did the sailors, who pressed on through fog and rain, both literally and figuratively, in competitions against elite teams from across the nation.
Some of the fireworks leading up to this year’s championships included Stanford’s tenth-straight sweep of the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference and its 14th-straight victory in the Big Sail against arch-rival UC Berkeley. Four Cardinal sailors earned All-America honors in coed, including crew senior Kathryn Booker and honorable mention skippers sophomore Romain Screve, junior Jacob Rosenberg and freshman Wiley Rogers.
The championships were a journey themselves, lasting 11 days total from May 21 to May 31.
In the Sperry Women’s National Championship from May 21-24, Stanford snuck its way into the finals, taking ninth in a semi-finals field where the top nine teams advanced.
Despite the narrow margin of entry, Stanford made its presence felt in the finals, scoring 335 points. Skipper Stephanie Houck and crews Camille White (1-6) and Ashton Borcherding (7-18) finished 13th overall in the A division, notching 176 points and four top-five finishes. Sophomore skipper Sophia Sole and crews White (11-14), senior Cassie Obel (1-8) and junior Taylor Kirkpatrick (9-10, 15-16) took ninth (159 points) in the B division.
Stanford kept the momentum going into the LaserPerformance Team Race National Championship from May 25-27.
The Cardinal went 12-3 in round robin and 4-3 in round two to reach the Final Four, where they lost to Yale and Georgetown but defeated Dartmouth to secure the bronze.
Skippers for Stanford included Rosenberg, Screve and Jack Parkin. Crews included Booker, White, Kirkpatrick, senior Meg Gerli, junior Madeline Bubb, sophomore Victoria Thompson, freshman Sammy Pickell and sophomore Mathew Hogan.
To conclude the season, Stanford finished eighth (285 points) in the Gill Coed National Championship from May 28 to June 1.
In the A division, skippers Screve, Rosenberg and Parkin, and crews Pickell and Booker finished ninth (155 points). Skipper Rogers and crew Thompson, and freshman skipper Telis Athansopoulos Yogo and crew Kirkpatrick combined for seventh (130 points) in the B division.
As the end of the school year approaches, Stanford sailing faces an inflection point. It remains to be seen how Clinton Hayes’ reign as interim head coach will develop. His predecessor Vandemoer served in the role for 11 years before the scandal broke.
But regardless of what the future holds, one thing is clear. Sailing is here to compete, and each space on the team is a valuable space to be earned. Those on the team have the hardware to show for it.
Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.