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Sailing Prepares for Season

By Conan L. Hom

If the current warm spell doesn’t take away the ice by March 11, the MIT Sailing Team may have to race their first spring regatta at the saltwaters of the Bronx without on the water preparation.

But true to the spirit, the Engineers make do with what they have -- brainpower. In the cramped quarters of the Sailing Pavilion Commodore’s room, the team gathers in the fading evening light discuss team racing tactics. Computer screens glow with situational diagrams; hand representations and movements demonstrate tactics that may shake the bad guy off. In all forms of sailboat racing, the team that is first to recognize the situation and bear all its power on the critical point of decision that usually wins.

Because of this, the Engineers, under the mentoring of coaches Fran Charles and Kyle Welch, analyze each situation and tactical response in detail. To wait to do this a month from now in the middle of a race, would be a sure way not to qualify for or win Nationals in June.

These sailors are a hardened veteran lot. Their continued hard work and dedication is the incredible story of bringing MIT back from obscurity to top ten in the nation in only four years and it has other league coaches noticing. Though it hasn’t been smooth sailing all during this journey, the Engineer’s consistency and skill have become assets.

The Women’s team is led by the tenacious Jessica Lackey ’00 and Sussana Mierau ’00. Both saw ’98 Nationals competition at Tulane. Last year, along with their team-mate and current pavilion commodore Nikki Spinello ’01, they missed National qualifiers by a point to Harvard; hardly a small feat since New England has seven excellent teams but only five could represent the region.

On the varsity side, varsity captain Alan Sun ’00, considered a “Dark Horse” in his freshman year, has recently claimed the New England Oustanding Senior Award. Sun, Madhulika Jain ’00, Sean Fabre ’00, and Erin Shea ’02 romped through the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Assocation last fall bringing home no less than seven trophies. These successes were marked by a blowout win of the Hatch Brown regatta and hard fought victories in the competitive Rudy Oberg and Mike Horn regattas.

Justice would not be served without the tireless support of the other members including the next generation of Engineers -- juniors Ian McCreery and Jen Shapiro to name a few. Also Spinello is sure to be the driving force behind next fall’s young Women’s team.

The spring season is one of great expectations because the sailing team is in contention for all of the national titles. The Engineers hope to complete their long road back to prominance with trophies at Dinghy, Womens, and Team Racing Nationals. With preparation, hard work, and if they keep the momentum of the fall, that hope could well become reality. On the individual side, Lackey, Spinello, Sun, Jain, Fabre, and Shea are all candidates for achieving All-American status.

But until Mother Nature decrees the waves to once again roll on the Charles, its a matter of tactics and knowing them cold.