Navy's intercollegiate sailing team has qualified for the Intercollegiate Sailing Association's Team Race National Championship, which is scheduled from May 29-31 in Newport, R.I.
The Midshipmen, coached by Ian Burman, earned their third straight trip to the nationals by finishing third at the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association's Team Race championship for the Captain Prosser Trophy in Kings Point, N.Y., April 13. Navy will be joined by Prosser Trophy winner Georgetown, St. Mary's College of Maryland and Fordham at the Newport championship race. The Midshipmen will try to improve on their 2014 showing, when they took fifth place at their final race of the season.
A deep and veteran team accounted for Navy's success at the MAISA Team Race. The Navy skippers were senior Mary Hall, junior Michael Popp and sophomore Patrick Snow. The Midshipmen's crew members included seniors Alex Asuncion, Emma Ferris, Connor Hendi and Charlie Peck; junior Aaron Hull; sophomores Michael Madigan and Molly Robertson; and freshman Peter Hogan.
After seeing all of the leading national qualifiers during the course of the fall and spring seasons, Burman believes Navy has a good shot at the national sailing title.
"Georgetown is always very good, and Yale has won back-to-back national championships," said Burman, who is completing his seventh year at Navy. "We also have to watch out for St. Mary's, Stanford, Boston College and the College of Charleston."
Burman goes through a careful process in order to select the right sailors for each competition.
"When we form a team for the championships, we make sure that our skippers have the best crew at their disposal," Burman said. "We get sailors who are different [body] sizes and have different skill sets."
It also helps to have experienced skippers and crew members. Burman has relied heavily on skipper Hall.
"Our star is Mary Hall," Burman said. "She is definitely the best woman sailor that I've coached. In fact, Mary's one of the top athletes at the Naval Academy, period. She's so determined and such a tremendous athlete, which makes her able to compete with the bigger sailors. She always keeps an even keel and stays focused and positive.
"Mary showed up and won the first event in her first year. She just got better and better and was a top-five woman sailor [nationally] by the end of her freshman year."
Navy has reached the championships in spite of some obstacles. Due to the severe winter weather that struck the Mid-Atlantic region, Navy got a late start to the spring season.
"This year was particularly tough," Burman said. "The Severn River was iced over for the first month of the season."
Although the Midshipmen couldn't get on the water, they did plenty of preparatory work on land. Their training regimen included four days of rigorous workouts that included running, swimming and weight training.
"Our plan revolves around doing certain drills at certain points of the season," Burman said. "We're installing our game plan slowly. Typically, we train hard early in the season, and then have more focus time as we get closer to the championship meets."
The intercollegiate sailing team is one of three Navy squads that have qualified for a national championship event. The women's team will compete at the College Sailing Women's Nationals May 25-28, while the Coed Fleet racing squad is set for its championship June 1-4.
Following the final postseason events, Burman will have only a short time before the next class of plebes arrives in Annapolis, Md. Most of his recruiting is done at major competitions that attract the nation's best young sailors. The unusual time demands of a midshipman and the five-year postgraduate service commitment haven't deterred Navy from putting together championship-caliber sailing teams.
"We want them to understand that Navy and the military service is the first priority here," Burman said. "We don't want them to think that they're going to a four-year sailing camp."