SAILING: Crimson Surprises in New England Champs Victory

While most of Harvard’s athletes have packed their bags and headed home for the summer, the sailing team is just beginning the most exciting portion of its season.

In the coming weeks, both the women’s and co-ed teams will compete in the Sailing Association National Championship in Austin, Texas. The women’s competition will begin on May 30, while the co-ed competition will start shortly afterwards on June 6.

The women’s team was the first to qualify for the national regatta.  It did so on April 21 by taking seventh place in the New England Women’s Championship. Harvard scored 271 total points in the competition. Boston College, the regatta hosts, scored 97 points, exactly sixty less than second-place Yale.

Co-captain Emily Lambert and classmate Alexandra Jumper competed in the A Division for Harvard.  The pair finished with 117 points, good enough for fifth place.  Later, sophomores Morgan Russom, Caitlin Watson, and Isabel Ruane placed fifth in the B division with a score of 154 points.

Unlike the women’s team, the co-ed racers have to compete in a semi-final competition to qualify for nationals. The co-ed team earned its ticket to Austin on May 14, when the Crimson placed third in the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Semi-Finals.

Although the team sat in eighth place after the first day of competition, Harvard bounced back to score 84 points in the A Division and 102 points in the B division.  The team’s total of 186 put it in a tie with SUNY Maritime College, but the Crimson won the head-to-head tiebreaker. The University of Miami won the competition.

Unless either team wins a national championship, the Crimson will consider the New England Dinghy Championship to be the highlight of the season.  On April 14-15, Harvard hoisted the New England championship trophy for the first time since 2001.

The Crimson hosted the regatta on the Charles River.  Although a casual fan might not associate “home field advantage” with sailing, being familiar with the Charles certainly gave Harvard a leg up on its competition since the river is famous for its confusing currents and strange winds.

Over the course of the weekend, the Crimson used its experience on the Charles to garner a total of 231 points. Harvard scored 110 points in the A division, tops in the category. The B division team performed well, too, tallying 121 points. It was a tight finish over Roger Williams, whose score of 240 was good enough for second place.

Senior William White, who is also a Crimson news editor, says the team was a little surprised by the school’s first New England championship in 11 years.

“I don’t think we went in expecting to win [the New England championship], but we had some really good seniors, and we got it done,” he says.

In some ways, this has been the theme of the season. After losing a deep graduating class that included five members of the All-New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association team, many expected this to be a down year for the Crimson.

But co-captains Lambert and Brandon Kopp have led their team to eighteen top-10 finishes on the year, including another win in the Hood Trophy regatta on Sept. 24-25 at Tufts University.

Kopp earned end-of-the-season accolades of his own when he was named to the to the first-team All-NEISA skipper group. Sophomore Sarah Pierson, Kopp’s racing partner, was awarded with a place on the first-team crew group. The pair led Harvard to the New England championship with two first- and second-place finishes in the regatta.

Slattery says that the team’s success, which comes to no surprise to him and his teammates, has the squad looking forward to competing in the national championship.

“We feel very confident as a team. We’ve done nothing but improve, and we got third at semis…. We are not going into finals expecting to do especially well, but we know we have the skills to do so,” he says.

Regardless of how it does in the upcoming national regattas, the team’s showing only can add to what has turned out to be a successful year for the Crimson sailing program.

—Staff writer Blake Sundel can be reached at bsundel@college.harvard.edu.

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