URI wins first national women’s championship in dinghy sailing

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Rhody’s club team defeats varsity squads for top spot

KINGSTON, R.I.—May 27, 2011 – Challenging wind conditions and tough currents did little to prevent the University of Rhode Island women’s sailing team from winning its last race to capture the national dinghy title Thursday, May 26 in Cascade Locks, Oregon.

The five-member club team hoisted the Gerald C. Miller Memorial Trophy at the Sperry Top-Sider/Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s National Championship. The victory marked URI’s first women’s national small boat sailing title in the 75-year-history of the sport at Rhody. URI last captured national small boat sailing supremacy in 1977 when a then men’s varsity team took top honors. URI has won 11 Kennedy Cups, the national championship in big boat sailing.

In the recent women’s event, the Rams were better than the other top seven squads, which are varsity sports at their schools. The only other club team competing was Western Washington University, which finished 17th.

URI team members are: Chanel Miller, freshman skipper and a global business major from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Amy Hawkins, a junior mathematics major from Ocean Gate, N.J., Caroline Hall, a junior kinesiology major from Bricktown, N.J., Danielle Fougere, a junior psychology major from Falmouth, Mass. and Katie Coupland, a senior environmental science and management major from Wakefield, R.I. The URI coach is Clinton Hayes, a former All-American sailor at the University of Vermont. Hawkins received honorable mention honors in the selections for All American.

After light winds kept the sailors off the water until mid-afternoon on Thursday, the heat in which URI was placed began with teams tightly bunched at the top, although URI held a 5-point advantage. St. Mary’s College of Maryland was first off the windward mark, but by the second windward mark, the Rams had taken the lead. Around the last leeward mark, Rhode Island extended its lead and easily won the race.

The top eight places were: Rhode Island, Connecticut College, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Brown University, Yale University, Old Dominion University, Harvard University and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

Chris Daigle, URI club sports coordinator, said URI skipper Miller “shot a bullet,” in her boat’s last two races, meaning they won those races.

“I am happy for them, because I don’t think a national title was expected of our sailors,” Daigle said. “This is going to do great things for the program, and create interest from people who want to sail for URI. They worked very hard for this.”

Daigle said of Hayes, who took over as URI sailing’s coach in March for Joey Mello: “In a short period of time, Clinton prepared the sailors to go against the best in the nation. Joey also deserves much of the credit for developing such a strong program over the last 5-and-a-half years. Norm Windus, our sailing coordinator for recreational services, also deserves kudos for his assistance to the team. Norm is always there when we need something.”