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Sailing Qualifies for Three Nationals

By Timothy M. Mcdonald, Crimson Staff Writer

This weekend’s events on the Charles River completed a trifecta for the Harvard sailing team. For the first time in three years, all three of the team’s spring groups will compete in the National Championships.

By virtue of the coed team’s second-place finish at the New England Dinghy Championships this weekend, Harvard qualified in the fleet racing category, adding to the team racing and women’s fleet racing events. The Crimson can now safely book its flights for Detroit, the site of Nationals, which take place the first week-and-a-half of June.

“Having teams qualify for each of the three Nationals is an important accomplishment,” junior co-captain Jennie Philbrick said. “We’ve got a really strong team with a great depth of sailors.”

That depth was evident in the announcement over the weekend of the All-New England coed team. The Crimson had two of the region’s top skippers—No. 2 Clay Bischoff and No. 3 Cardwell Potts. Additionally, seniors Lema Kikuchi and Michelle Yu, along with junior David Darst, were among the top ten crews in New England.

There was only one piece of disappointing news amidst a No. 2 finish and a spot at Nationals—Harvard finished behind Tufts for the second consecutive week at a New England Championship.

Both of the Crimson’s boats had strong weekends, with the A boat finishing near the top of the pack and the B winning with time to spare.

The team’s first boat, skippered by Bischoff and crewed by Kikuchi, finished tied with BC for fourth. The team, though, was hurt by a disqualification midway through the competition.

The incident came over a dispute with BC, which filed a protest against Harvard and called Tufts as a witness. That complaint created a situation where the teams in second and third place were challenging the Crimson—which was leading the regatta at that point—adding controversy to an already contentious situation when the ruling went BC’s (and Tufts’) way.

“The situation surrounding the protest was unfortunate but, regardless of an unfair disqualification from a race, we will need to learn to avoid situations of this nature at nationals,” Yu said. “We saw from this weekend that one mistake can cost you the regatta.”

The effects of the disqualification were nearly erased by the impressive performance—and sizable margin of victory—of Harvard’s B boat. Junior co-captain Potts skippered the second boat, which featured a rotating crew of freshman Ruth Schlitz, Darst and Yu. The rotation worked wonders as the B boat finished the weekend with 58 points, 16 ahead of second-place Tufts.

That group’s weekend began auspiciously as well, with Potts and Schlitz recording three top finishes in their first four races on Saturday. Sunday primarily featured Darst and Yu alternating as crew for Potts. Yu and Potts put together a solid stretch of two seconds and a first in four races together.

The only race that hurt Harvard on the B side was its last. With stronger winds kicking up, the light Yu was taken out and the heavier Darst inserted as crew. Despite the success Potts and Darst had earlier in the day, the two struggled in the final race of the weekend, finishing 11th.

“I would say that Harvard pulled ahead of Tufts early in the racing largely thanks to Cardwell,” Yu said. “He consistently put points on Tufts sailors J.R. Maxwell and Deane Madsen in nearly every race.”

That one-off race did nothing to dampen the B boat’s performance, as it still finished solidly ahead of Tufts, a margin that nearly made up for the points Harvard lost on the A boat disqualification. The Crimson ended the weekend a mere six points behind the Jumbos.

With the team’s regular season at an end, the sailors have nearly a month to prepare for Nationals, preparation that may require trips away from the Charles. Harvard owns, and uses, two kinds of boats—Larks and FJs. But Nationals will be raced in 420s, requiring the Crimson to adapt.

Conditions in Detroit for Nationals—likely big waves with light wind—will make it crucial that the Crimson is adept at handling its boats. As a result, Harvard will spend some of the month of May practicing on Boston Harbor with BC, a team that owns 420s.

“420s are difficult boats to sail in that they take a lot more strength to roll tack and gybe,” Yu said. “Because boathandling in these boats is so particular, and given more time to practice in the next few weeks, we will perfect our game to a level that can win the national title.”

—Staff writer Timothy M. McDonald can be reached at tmcdonal@fas.harvard.edu.

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