Sailing Qualifies for Nationals with Third-Place Finish

The Harvard co-ed sailing team has just shortened its summer. Thanks to a strong showing and a third-place finish in this past weekend’s Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s Western Semi-Finals, the Crimson extended its stay on campus by qualifying for a chance to compete for the national championship.

On Friday, the team made the eight-hour drive down to Annapolis, Md., where the US Naval Academy hosted 36 teams from around the country. The New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association, Harvard’s conference, was split into the competition’s two divisions: Eastern and Western.  The Crimson competed in the Western semis alongside conference foes Yale, Boston College, and Tufts.

In order to advance to the national championship, the team had to finish within the top nine spots in its respective semi-finals. This year’s ISCA Team Racing Nationals will be held in Austin, Texas on June 6.

The competition began on Saturday, with senior Brendan Kopp and sophomore Sarah Pierson representing Harvard in the A division. The pair recorded five top-10 finishes in their eight races, tallying 63 points, which put them in 10th place in the A flight.

While Kopp and Pierson were busy, senior Emily Lambert and freshman Brian Drumm competed in the B Division. In seven races, the Crimson duo had five top-10 finishes of their own.  Lambert and Drumm finished the day with 48 points, good enough for fourth place in their respective division.

After the first day of competition, the team overall sat in eighth place.  It appeared that the Crimson would barely qualify for the national regatta.

“It wasn’t a terrible day, but it wasn’t great either,” Kopp said. “Emily and Brian were sailing great and keeping us in it.”

But Sunday proved to be a different story. The A-division racers—which on Sunday included Drumm in addition to Kopp and Pierson—totaled 21 points on the second day of competition, finishing no worse than sixth place in any of the races and winning one of them.

“Our starts were a bit better on Sunday,” Kopp said. “We were sailing a different type of boat, and it was a little windier on Sunday than it was on Saturday. Things just fell into place; Saturday we were fast, but we missed small opportunities. Sunday, we were capitalizing on more of those.”

The Harvard sailors in the B division on the competition's second day—Lambert, Drumm, Pierson, and freshman Richard Bergsund—were equally as formidable.  In seven races, the Crimson did not finish worse than 10th place.  They scored slightly above the previous day’s totals with 54 total points.

By the end of Sunday’s races, the Crimson had scored 84 points in the A Division and 102 points in the B division.  The team’s total of 186 put the Crimson in a tie for third place with SUNY Maritime College, who scored 83 in the A Division and 103 in the B Division.

With the advantage in the head-to-head tiebreaker, Harvard managed to claim third in the regatta. Its 186 points were just behind Yale, who scored 175 points.

The University of Miami won the competition with a point total of 160.

“I think it was higher than people would have guessed that we would finish,” Kopp said. “Conditions [at Navy] are very different [from the Charles River], so it requires a slightly different skill set. Our goal was, ‘Let’s try and get top nine,’ but I’m not surprised we could do well in those conditions.”

Freshman Gram Slattery credited the team’s literal overnight success to a number of tactical changes.