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A fine season came to a sudden end last weekend as the Harvard coed sailing team finished seventh in the Atlantic Coast Championships (ACC) qualifiers at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., failing by one place to gain a bid to next weekend's championship regatta.
Sixteen top New England teams vied for six spots in the ACC at King's point, N.Y. After placing near the top of the fleet in every regatta this season, including a second-place finish two weeks ago in the Schell Trophy Regatta, the Crimson expected the qualifiers to be a breeze. But by the end of the weekend, Yale was holding on to sixth place and Harvard was furling up its sails for the long winter.
"We were disappointed, especially after our strong performances in the past regattas," said A-division crew Liz Graham. "Between the heavy pressure of the qualifiers and the shifty wind we had to contend with, we simply did not do our job."
All-America skipper Jim Bowers once again sailed to the top of his fleet, holding on to first place in the A-division for most of the regatta. However, the B-division support that had helped carry Harvard all year proved to be Harvard's Achilles heel in the weekend's races. Skipper John Dickson and crews Jen Drohan and Alex Barker could not keep pace with their competition, sinking Harvard into seventh.
"John did not sail as well this weekend as he had in the past," said Graham. "His regular crew was sick and he had some technical difficulties with the boat that got him frustrated during the race."
Towards the end of the regatta, Bowers attacked the sixth-place Yale boat in a last-ditch effort to finish ahead of it. With no other chance at winning, the A-division boat succeeded in outsailing the Yale boat. However, this tactic cost Harvard in the long run, as Bowers' boat fell to third place overall due to its 15th-place finish.
"It was particularly hard for us because we had to come from behind the entire day," Graham said. "In the past, we have been opening strong leads early on and maintaining our leads."
Horn on the Charles
Meanwhile, the rest of the coed squad and the entire women's team participated in a one-of-a-kind mixed event called the Horn Trophy on the Charles.
"The emphasis was made was to make it more relaxed," said Harvard women's Captain Caitlin Murray. "This race is scheduled a week before the Atlantic Coasts to let everybody go out and sail without worrying about qualifying."
Harvard's balanced squad of 14 sailors finished in fourth place, again taking a back seat to first-place rival Tufts.
Eliot Merril and Alex Barker provided the highlights for Crimson by finishing first in three of their first four races.
The women's team has been gearing up for its Atlantic Coast championships next week at Yale.
"We feel confident about our chances to place next week," said Murray. "We have been sailing up to our potential for the past two weeks."
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