Under head coach Brian Clancy, success has become commonplace for Cornell sailing. Cornell recently completed its best season in recent memory by earning its first conference title and a 10th-place finish in the national coed semifinals.
Despite reaching these new heights, there is still room for improvement. By finishing in 10th, the Red fell just one spot short of qualifying for the national coed finals. Cornell has been absent from those waters since 1984, but Clancy and Co. will strive to break the drought this year.
In order to do that, Cornell will have to forge ahead after the graduation of Diana Otis ’19 and Kimberly Wong ’19. Otis participated in 16 events throughout 2018-19. For her effort, the Severna Park, Md. native earned nods as an honorable mention on the Intercollegiate Sailing Association All-America crew and as a member of the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association all-conference first team. Wong was similarly accomplished, sailing in 15 regattas en route to first-team honors on the All-MAISA crew team.
Clancy had nothing but high praise for the two seniors, describing them as “absolutely incredible people.”
“Beyond [sailing,] both of them had 4.0 GPAs in their respective majors, and they really did an amazing job of that balance,” Clancy said.
Despite losing these core athletes, Clancy’s squad has reloaded with nine freshmen.
“They’ve all done a great job so far,” Clancy said of his newcomers. “I think they’re really talented. They’re coming in with a strong group of leaders in the classes above them. They’ve really welcomed them to the team so far — I think they’re going to make a major impact this year.”
Over the course of the fall season last year, the Red displayed its prowess on a number of occasions. Cornell started strong with a first-place showing at the Jack Boehringer ’52 Memorial Regatta on the women’s side. And from there, the team notched the top slot at the Jen Harris Women’s Regatta, the Susan Rogers ’75 Memorial Regatta and the Nevins Trophy.
In Clancy’s view, the fall season represents a chance to tune up for what the team hopes is a championship run in the spring.
“No matter when you go out to competition, you want to do well, yes,” Clancy said.“So they’re hoping to execute and do their best. But at the same time, they know that this isn’t the time to peak. This is the time to make the adjustments that we need and just try to improve.”
Last year, the Red clearly made the necessary adjustments to improve. Perhaps the biggest highlight in the first leg of the year came during the MAISA conference championship, which was hosted in Ithaca and served as one of the biggest events during the fall season. There, sophomore Brooke Shachoy and junior Becca Jordan propelled the women’s team to its first conference championship as it narrowly edged out MAISA juggernaut Hobart and William Smith Colleges in a thrilling comeback.
“It was a huge milestone for the program,” Clancy said. “But we have higher aspirations.”
Cornell’s success from the fall carried over into the spring as it sought to shine on the national stage. The Red sailed well throughout March before claiming the MAISA Team Race title. The following month, the Cornell women booked their trip to nationals with a second-place finish at SUNY Maritime.
Soon after, the team clinched a spot at the coed national championship by finishing in eighth at the American Trophy Regatta. At the Sperry Women’s Finals, Cornell finished 15th out of the 18 competitors, but skipper Gabby Rizika ‘20 earned All-America honors in the process.
During the coed semifinals, the Red concluded its campaign by slotting in at 10th in a field of 18 teams. With only nine teams moving onto the finals stage, Cornell was on the cusp of keeping its season alive, but its season ended in the semifinals as the Red’s 261 points fell two short of UC Santa Barbara’s total of 263.
In his 10 years at the helm, Clancy reflected on how far his team has come — to within two points of the national finals.
“We’ve been growing the whole time, growing our endowment, growing competitively. So that’s been a fun process, but that also takes a significant amount of time as well,” Clancy said.
Just three years into his tenure, Clancy’s team experienced a major breakthrough.
“In 2013, that was a huge year for us. We finished on the podium at the women’s national championship. And that was a shocker to many. Even for us — we were just floored with how well we competed in that moment. And so, that was a huge, huge turning point, no doubt about it.”
The Red has established itself as a national powerhouse, and there’s little doubt that Cornell will retain its position in the upper echelon of the sailing world. But the next step is securing an appearance in the national finals during the spring. Given the improvement that Cornell has displayed under Clancy and its opportunity to use the fall as a tune-up, the Red hopes to find itself on the country’s biggest stage in the spring.
Cornell will kick off the fall campaign this weekend by once again hosting the Jack Boehringer ’52 Memorial Regatta on Saturday and Sunday.