ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Dana Rohde finished second at her fourth and final appearance at the Laser Performance Women's Singlehanded National Championship hosted by the University of South Florida. With the podium finish, the Coast Guard senior becomes one of the most decorated singlehanded sailors in program history.
Tampa Bay was in classic form for both days of competition. On Saturday, a light northerly breeze that eventually dissipated only allowed the Race Committee to complete five races. Long and unpredictable shifts in the wind direction rewarded consistency and punished risk. With no sailor having a clear speed advantage over the rest of the field, smart tactical sailing prevailed.
After sitting in a top-5 position for most of the day, Rohde won the final race on Saturday to take the overall lead, but with the thinnest of margins. She was tied with Brown University's Lindsay Baab and nine other sailors were within ten points. The Race Committee moved up the start time for Sunday in an attempt to make up for the lack of breeze on Saturday.
The conditions on day two were very similar to day one, except for that the breeze stayed within the race-able range until the cutoff time of 3:00pm. An additional seven races were completed.
For the first six races of the day, Rohde extended her lead by sailing smart and conservative races. During that string, she recorded four top-3 finishes – including two race wins – to put distance between herself and the other contenders. Going into the final race, she held onto a ten point lead over a group of three sailors who were all tied.
At the start of race twelve, Rohde was called over early and had to restart. With the fleet now having an advantage on her, she looked for a favorable wind shift which could allow her to get back in the race.
Sure enough, she positioned herself well to take advantage of a significant shift to the right while the majority of the contenders were on the left. Just as it looked like she was going to work herself back into a top-10 position, however, she suffered a mishap with her boat that wouldn't allow her to trim or ease the sail. With substantially lower speed than the rest of the fleet, she finished eighteenth.
With the finish of race twelve, Rohde's lead was erased, but she remained tied and winning the tie break with Boston College's Sophia Reineke. Two hours after racing completed, a protest between two sailors on the bottom half of the fleet would ultimately give Reineke the one point advantage she needed to overcome Rohde, making her the 2017 Women's Singlehanded National Champion.
Reineke won the regatta with 68 points. Rohde finished second with 69 points. Kelly-Ann Arrindell from College of Charleston was third with 71 points.
"I am extremely proud of Dana and her teammates for the work they put in to prepare for this event," commented head coach Brian Swingly. "She sailed an incredible event and deserved to win. She's a champion in my book."
With the conclusion of this event, Rohde wraps up one of the most storied singlehanded careers in Coast Guard history. She qualified for the National Championship all four years, having never finished outside of the top-3 in the New England qualifier. At the National Championship, she was 3rd in 2014, 8th in 2015, 5th in 2016 and now 2nd in 2017.
As her singlehanded career comes to a close she will now lead the number two ranked women's team into the Women's Atlantic Coast Championship this upcoming weekend at Connecticut College and eventually to a bid at the Sperry Women's National Championship in the spring.
Photo courtesy of Rob Migliaccio.