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While boisterous crowds lined the nearby banks of the Charles last weekend to watch crew shells glide by, the Harvard coed sailing team was busy down river.
The Crimson captured second place in a regatta at MIT Saturday and a first-place tie Sunday at Tufts.
Saturday, Harvard All-America Jim Bowers and crew Liz Graham took second place in the A-division. Bowers and Graham fell behind in the early races, but a healthy lunch of chicken sandwiches pulled them back into second place.
"I literally did not wake up until 12:00, and we sailed like we weren't there in the morning," Bowers said. "We went out in the afternoon and took first in all of our races. That was an indication of how we can really sail."
Harvard was helped by a third-place finish in the B-division, as John Dickson paired with freshman crew Tanya Clement for the first time. Paul Sabin notched first place in the C-division, demonstrating the depth of this year's squad.
However, these strong performances were not enough to catch Tufts.
"Tufts broke away from the pack early in the day, and we couldn't catch them," Bowers said. "They've been our toughest competition all year and they were there again this weekend."
Sunday, the Crimson recorded a 5-1 record in an abridged three-on-three team race at Tufts, tying with Rhode Island, Tufts, and Connecticut College. The races started late because of a lack of wind and were called off at 5 p.m. because of darkness.
"We felt that we should have won the regatta," Bowers said. "We sailed against all of the top teams and only lost once. The rest of the teams beat the weaker squads and did not deserve the tie."
Harvard's loss resulted from skipper Eliot Merill taking a penalty for following a Connecticut boat. But his gaffe was understandable in light of the confusion on the Charles.
"Usually the crew shells are used to our sailing races and know what to do," Bowers said. "But because of all of the out-of-town boats on the river, rowers expected us to steer away and there were a few too many close calls."
The women's team settled for a frustrating fifth place in a six-team regatta at Yale over the weekend. Captain Caitlin Murray, Kara Berdik and freshman Jen Drohan skippered for the Crimson squad.
"We are very inexperienced as far as team racing is concerned," Berdik said. "We only got in one day of practice on team races all year and we couldn't practice on Friday because of the gusting winds."
Next Come the Ashes
In next week's Victorian Urn Regatta on the Charles, the unofficial New England fall championship for the coed and women's squads, the women will return to the usual format of fleet racing. The crowds may not compare to those at the Head, but the stakes will be just as high.
"Our performance is definitely not indicative of how we will do next week," Murray said. "Fleet racing is a totally different sport."
Saturday will mark the first time the women will race at home with their new fleet. The sailing team completed an $80,000 fundraising drive to get their new boats.
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