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The underdog Harvard sailing team captured its first intersectional victory in more than five years by winning the highly prestigious 45th annual Timmie Angston Regatta-Midwest Championships held in Chicago during Thanksgiving weekend.
The Crimson didn't let its relatively low seed discourage it from going all the way. Harvard was in for a tough fight, but the Crimson refused to quit.
"We were expected to place fifth or sixth before the race," said team captain and race participant, senior John Dickson. "It was clear after the first day when we placed second, that we were contenders."
The regatta, one of the premiere midwestern races, drew intercollegiate sailing teams from across the country.
Last year's champion St. Mary's (Maryland), University of Michigan, Stanford, Princeton, and others competed for the cup.
But Harvard proved superior.
Junior Elliott Merrill, who paired with Dickson, and teammates Julie Caldwell and Christine Hinckley manned the 10-foot Dyer Flyer which won the regatta.
The regatta which included 28 races held over three grueling days was held at the Chicago Yacht Club on Lake Michigan. Each race required co-ed sailing teams to negotiate a sailing race on a course that changed each day of competition.
"On the first day there were a total of fourteen races and initially we didn't do so well mainly because of the wind," said Dickson. "We trailed the lead team, St. Mary's, by as much as 20 points."
Harvard refused to say die.
Things Looking Grim
Things looked grim for the Crimson. But the Harvard team held fast. The Crimson would not lose its lead.
The second day of the race featured howling winds that chilled the sailors. But Harvard would not be discouraged in the face of adversity. The Crimson ignored the harsh climate and sailed to victory.
"The second day the winds were much stronger with Merrill and Hinckley sailing very consistently, placing second or third in each of their six races," said Dickson. "By the end of the second day we led by 20 points."
Harvard's lead would prove to be insurmountable. The second day's performance would be the turning point in the race.
On the regatta's third day St. Mary's won each of their heats. Their contingent turned up the heat on Harvard.
St. Mary's made it a tight race on the final day, closing in on a Harvard boat that had surged ahead of the crowd the day before. It would not be an easy task for St. Mary's.
But St. Mary's was unable to close the point spread, and the Crimson emerged triumphant by a margin of seven points.
Merrill attributed Harvard's success to its consistency.
"We were the most consistent we have been all year," Merrill. "In our other earlier events we had some good and bad races, never achieving the kind of consistent sailing we wanted.
"But it all came together for us in Chicago," Merrill added with notable satisfaction.
The Crimson survived inclement weather and freezing conditions to hang on for the win.
"The weather only became a factor on the third day when it became really cold," Caldwell noted. "We had to break the ice in some places to begin the race. But still it was all worth it."
"We are all very happy with our performance," she said.
"I've been sailing since my freshman year and have never won a regatta. This is great," Caldwell added.
"We were the most consistent we have been all year. In our earlier events we had some good and bad races, never achieving the kind of consistent sailing we wanted. But it all came together for us in Chicago." --Harvard juniElliott Merrill
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