Heading into the New England Championships at Brown this weekend, the Harvard women’s sailing team knew that in order to qualify for the National Championships, it had to beat the same regional teams it had defeated in a third-place finish at the Dellenbaugh Intersectional the week before.
The squad did that and more en route to a second-place finish and berth in Nationals.
This time around, the only school to defeat the Crimson was Brown, the regatta’s host. At the Dellenbaugh Invitational, Tufts—who finished in fourth place this weekend—and the Bears both placed above Harvard.
An additional week of extra practice time—which has given the team an opportunity to work on its admittedly poor starts—coupled with the heightened tension and wind conditions similar to last week’s competition, helped the Crimson sail an overall better race this time around.
The team’s A squad was particularly impressive, racking up four first-place finishes in 14 races, and only finishing out of the top four once. It finished with a healthy 13-point margin of division runner-up Tufts.
The Crimson’s B boat under junior captain Jennie Philbrick and classmate Diana Rodin finished in fourth amongst the second boats, and ran into some trouble in its last three races, placing 11th, 10th and seventh to conclude its weekend.
Despite some difficulty at the end, the Crimson’s objective—to qualify for Nationals—was easily accomplsihed, and the team proved itself capable of racing with any team in the Northeast, thanks in large part to its strong crew of skippers.
“The skippers at the regatta were really on top of their game for us,” said senior Michelle Yu, who crewed for freshman skipper Genny Tulloch.
Yu also noted that sailing at home was not the only thing that gave the Bears an edge at New Englands.
“We were also racing in 420s, and a lot of schools don’t have those, so that already puts the home team at a huge advantage,” Yu added.
The women’s team was not the only contingent of the Harvard sailing squad that saw success this weekend. The co-ed team won the Thompson Trophy, held at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, making its own case for a national bid that much stronger.
The Crimson’s A boat, skippered by senior Clay Bischoff and crewed by fellow senior Lema Kikuchi, finished first in its division by a strong 23-point margin. That was the same overall margin by which Harvard beat Brown.
The second boat, of junior captain Cardwell Potts and junior David Darst, started its weekend slowly by finishing with two straight 14th places. Potts and Darst mounted a strong comeback with a number of consecutive second- and third-place finishes in individual races.
Even though Harvard finished first in the A division and second in the B division, the team was not totally satisfied.
“We still had a lot of chances to improve ourselves over the weekend,” said senior Kikuchi, in large part attributable to difficulties with the strong wind at the Coast Guard Academy.
The final group of Harvard co-ed sailors on the water this weekend also had a successful outing, finishing third at the Staake Trophy. The team beat out Dartmouth in the tiebreaker and finished with a 4-4 record on the day.
The Crimson’s season doesn’t get any easier next weekend, with two championships on the line. At Boston College, the Priddy Trophy will determine the New England Freshmen Championships. And on Mystic Lake at Tufts, the New England Team Racing Championships will be held.
The last time Harvard was on Mystic Lake for team racing was at the beginning of April competing for the Friis Trophy. That time the team finished in third place, losing a tie-breaker to Yale, after a disappointing 3-3 record on the final day of racing.
With such important competitions coming up, the Crimson will need to get as much time on the water to practice many of the techniques it was unable to practice earlier in the season.
“With the Charles frozen for so long, we were only able to get in like two weeks of practice before the real races started,” Yu said. “For the next two weeks now we’re going to have to work our butts off.”
—Staff writer Evan R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.