There is home-field advantage, home -court advantage, home-ice advantage, but what about home-water advantage? For the Bowdoin Sailing Team, it seems to be a legitimate phenomenon. Last weekend at Bethel Point, Maine, the Polar Bears breezed to victory in the New England Dinghy Tournament. A big part of last weekend's victory came in the form of Bowdoin's A-division sailors Alex Takata '12 and Laura Heyl '10.
The dominant duo left teams from 10 other schools bobbing in its wake. In 10 A-division races of last weekend's regatta they finished first five times, second three times, third once, and fifth once.
"There was a funky breeze direction during the race," said Heyl. "Normally we don't get that, but overall there was really good breeze both days."
Takata noted that it was great to sail in the familiar waters of Bethel Point.
"It's the most beautiful racing site in all of New England," he said. "It's really amazing to be able to sail here everyday."
Takata recognized that the win last weekend was a team effort. Billy Rohman '11 and Caitlin Beach '10 captured a single A-division race win, while Charlotte Williams '10 and Ben Berg '12 finished atop the B-Division table.
"Charlotte and Ben raced really well," he said. "They were a huge part of our win."
The team will head to Connecticut College this weekend for the New England Dinghy Championship, and a chance to qualify for nationals.
"Alex is a very smart sailor and has very good instincts on the water," said Head Coach Frank Pizzo. "The decisions on the water unfold very quickly and Alex has a good sense of when to push and when not to push."
Takata's instincts come from a wealth of sailing experience. Growing up in Larchmont, New York, Takata spent much of his childhood cruising Long Island Sound.
"I started racing when I was eight," said Takata. "I've been sailing ever since. I really enjoy being out on the water, but almost all I do is racing."
When he was 14, Takata traveled to Belgium to compete in an international youth race. A year later, he was one of approximately twenty kids to qualifiy for a race in Trinidad. As an A-division collegiate skipper, Takata has taken his passion to the next level.
Nonetheless, he still has fun sailing. As his racing Partner Heyl notes, "He keeps it pretty lighthearted in the boat."
Unlike Takata, Heyl comes from a background with little formal racing experience. However, she has proven herself no less capable. A native of Bradenton, Florida, Heyl spent her early years navigating a small Sunfish in the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Her sophomore year at Bowdoin, Heyl decided to brave the chilly waters of Maine and take up racing.
She has been on an upward tack ever since. This year Heyl has raced in the A division with Takata. With her Bowdoin career approaching its finale, she spoke fondly of her racing experiences.
"One of my most memorable races was for the Barnett Trophy last fall," she said. "The race was at home and it was super breezy. A lot of boats were capsizing, but Alex and I were doing really well. It was exhilarating."
"Laura is excellent at surveying the course to find the optimal racing conditions," said Takata. "She knows how to find the wind."
Coach Pizzo added that, while she was not skippering the boat, "Laura deserves just as much credit for their performance this weekend."
Looking towards the championship race this weekend, Pizzo added that "Alex has the talent and the experience to do well at the intersectional level in New England, it will just come down to the mental side of the sport and whether he will be able to handle the highs and lows of performing against the best sailors in the country."
With Heyl beside him, the talent and desire is there. All they need is a little breeze.