Harvard Takes Fifth in Sailing National Championship

After placing fifth in the Gill Dinghy National Championship on Friday—the third consecutive top-five finish for the Crimson sailing program—Harvard has docked its boats for the last time in the 2012 season.

The Crimson qualified for the National Championships nearly a month ago, thanks to a third-place finish in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s Western Semi-Finals. As most students finished up finals and headed home, sailors continued to train for the most important competition of the year.

After weeks of preparation, the team arrived in Austin, Texas, at the beginning of June. Some, including senior Emily Lambert, arrived early to compete in the Sperry Top-Sider/Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Women's National Championships, also held on Austin’s Lake Travis.

In addition to facing seventeen of the best sailing teams in the country, the Crimson would have to battle the unfamiliar conditions of the southwestern waters. Despite the difference in conditions, senior skipper Brendan Kopp explained that the team felt prepared.

"The conditions were a little bit different, but our coaches did a great job in the weeks preceding the event to expose us to a range of conditions that mimicked the conditions that we were likely to face in Texas," Kopp says. "So we were feeling pretty comfortable down there, other than the heat."

The hunt for the National Championship began on June 6. After the first day, Harvard sat in second place with 75 points, 19 behind first-place Georgetown.  Kopp and sophomore Sarah Pierson recorded two first-place finishes for a total score of 33 points in the A Division, while Lambert and her racing partner, freshman Brian Drumm, scored 42.

Despite a strong showing in day two—the Crimson scored 155 points through ten races—Harvard fell to the fifth position, while Georgetown held onto its lead.

Kopp and Pierson continued to shine for the Crimson, scoring 63 points through two days of competition, second in the A division.

Harvard failed to advance on the final day of racing, though the team managed to hold its spot in the standings. At the end of the competition, Harvard remained in fifth with 213 total points.

Georgetown took the National Championship with 137 points, denying Boston College its third consecutive national title.

Kopp and Pierson sustained their strong efforts until the final race. The duo tallied only 75 points for the entire competition, just four behind the A-division winners from Georgetown.

The Harvard A-division racers received All-American honors for their impressive performance.

"That wasn’t in my mind during the competition," Kopp says. "We went down there trying to win a national championships, but it was great being recognized [as an All-American] at the end of the season. It was a great season for Sarah and myself, and the team as a whole."

Kopp was quick to mention Pierson’s success in a sport she recently picked up.

"Her story is incredible because she didn’t sail before college. If you looked around the room of all the people who had been named All-Americans, not many people could say that."

The B-division racers, which included Emily Lambert, Brian Drumm, and Michael Drumm, scored 138 total points, 13th in the competition.

The Crimson’s performance in the national regatta exceeded the expectations of many, including members of the team. Kopp is proud of this accomplishment, but it is also a bittersweet feeling for the senior All-American.

"I’m psyched because we did pretty well this year and a lot better than most people would have thought at the beginning of the season. It's tough because it’s the last year of college season, though, and it's sad to lose those guys."

—Staff writer Blake Sundel can be reached at