With a spot in the semifinal round of the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Dinghy National Championship on the line this past weekend, all eyes were on the New England Dinghy Championship at Harvard.
Manning the A−division for Tufts’ co−ed squad on Saturday and racing in the Harvard fleet was sophomore skipper William Haeger, alongside fellow sophomore crew Paula Grasberger. Meanwhile, in the MIT fleet, the B−division duo of senior skipper and co−captain Massimo Soriano and junior crew Madeline Luce held their own against stiff competition and variable westerly breezes.
“The New England Dinghy Championship is one of the toughest regattas of the year,” Soriano said. “The competition is always stacked, and it’s just one of the biggest events in the country for co−ed sailing.”
Tufts finished seventh out of the 18−team pool to earn a spot in the national semifinal round. But the final placement hardly begins to describe the intensity of the regatta. After the first day, with each division having sailed 12 races, the Jumbos tentatively sat in second place with 164 points, behind only Boston College, which tallied 160 points.
“It was a roller coaster of a regatta,” Soriano said. “Though we ended the first day in second place, we knew it was a very precarious spot. We were only four points away from first and 17 away from ninth. All the scores could get mixed up after even one race.”
The second day turned out to be more difficult. A string of sub−par showings by the A−division saw the Jumbos’ placement free−fall temporarily out of the top eight. The B−division, led once again by Soriano and Luce, was able to bring back some momentum and return the team to within qualifying range, thanks in part to a first−place finish in the 13th race to go along with runner−up results in the second, ninth and 12th races.
Junior co−captain William Hutchings, who observed the race as an alternate, took notice of the effects that the venue had on the racers.
“The Charles River is very interesting,” Hutchings said. “It’s very difficult to predict the wind because it’s so dependent on how it shears off buildings and the land. You could still have a great start but end up second−to−last here. We weren’t in a groove Sunday with the rapid wind shifts and puffs, and, to use a sailing term, we were just out of phase.”
The final scores tell the tale — the A−division tallied 158 points over the two days to go along with the B−division’s 114, good for a total of 272. Tufts’ score put the team just ahead of Brown and MIT, which tied for eighth place with 274 each, with the final semifinal qualifier going to Brown following a head−to−head tiebreaker. Rounding out the top six were Harvard, Roger Williams, Yale, Dartmouth, Boston College and Boston University. The top eight overall from the regatta secured national qualifying spots.
“All the teams were extremely competitive,” Soriano said. “Any of the top nine teams had a chance to win it all. The most important thing for right now is just moving past qualifiers.”
“Doing well isn’t just about having [good] races, it’s about not having bad races,” Hutchings added. “We almost didn’t qualify. It came down to the last race, where Massimo was able to put on points over MIT and Brown to secure seventh place. It’s a testament to how competitive the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association is.”
While the co−ed fleet team was at Harvard, the women’s sailing team competed back at the coast guard in the Emily Wick Trophy regatta, which did not have national qualifier implications for nationals but was significant for ranking purposes.
Junior captain Natalie Salk teamed up with senior Reeves Bright and sophomore Sara Makaretz to represent the A−division, while junior skipper Mariel Marchand joined the sophomore triplet of Makaretz, Barbara Murray and Margaret Bacon in the B.
As in the New England Dinghy Championship, the women faced stiff competition, but managed to land in sixth place in the 17−team event thanks to a 104−point contribution from the A−division over the course of the event’s 17 races. After a rough start in the first four races on Saturday, Salk and Makaretz carried the Jumbos to six consecutive top−five finishes en route to a fourth−place overall finish in the A division.
“The Emily Wick Trophy was important for the team,” Soriano said. “It was good for the B−division, adjusting to higher−level competition and building confidence going into New England nationals.”
This weekend, the women will shoot for national qualifying marks at the New England Championships at Boston College.