Sailing | Slippery Sloop: Jumbos stumble to fifth place
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 08:10
No. 13 Tufts came into the New England Sloop Championships last weekend filled with hope. The event was the last obstacle on the way to what the team was anticipating would be another national championship run. Instead, the Jumbos will now have to stay at home on Thanksgiving weekend following a disappointing fifth place finish at the regatta in Newport, R.I. With the team now out of competition in the biggest meet of the fall season, the Jumbos find themselves in a strange and unfamiliar spot.
Sailing in the larger keel Yngling boats, Tufts sent out its best squad. Senior Will Haeger, a day removed from accepting the Clarence “Pop” Houston Award as the best male athlete at Tufts, was skippering, while classmates Paula Grasberger and David Liebenberg served in crew and fellow senior Solomon Krevans filled his role as tactician.
These same four won the national championship last year, yet tough competition and winds that reached up to 18 knots threw a wrench into the qualifying rounds, as the Jumbos were one spot out of reaching the semifinals. Tufts could only watch as No. 1 Yale won the regatta for a second consecutive year and No. 2 Boston College secured the second qualifying spot with its second place finish.
Without qualifying for nationals, the Jumbos find themselves prematurely moving on to the next part of their season.
“We’re done in match racing and keel boats,” head coach Ken Legler said. “The focus for the remainder of the fall and spring is two-person dinghies and some singlehanded Laser sailing.”
Following the meet, the Jumbos declined to discuss their subpar result. The four-person unit has been one of the most successful sailing groups in Tufts history, and with all four graduating this spring, they will have no chance to reclaim their title.
While they are all strong sailors in the two-person dinghies — Haeger and Grasberger have served as the top team for the early meets this season — they miss out on what has been the marquee event of their careers.
Despite the disappointing finish, it is difficult to call the result shocking. Although highly ranked, Tufts lost to four teams that were ranked higher. Yale and Boston College are the top two teams in the nation, while the two teams that beat them out for the remainder of the spots in the semifinal, Brown and Roger Williams, are ranked No. 8 and No. 7, respectively.
The Jumbos did not wish to discuss the fairness — or lack thereof — of the qualification system in college sailing, but there’s no question that Tufts was hurt by its geographic location. Competing in the New England region, the Jumbos have to face the toughest teams in the country just to get to nationals, while teams in other regions have an easier road.
Last spring, the Jumbos faced a similar predicament when they missed out on qualifying for nationals despite clearly being one of the top teams in the nation.
While the focus was on the New England Sloops, the Jumbos had teams competing throughout the New England region. With senior Viktor Wettergren and freshman Alex Tong sailing in the A division and sophomores Rolfe Glover and Kate Wasynczuk in the B division, the Jumbos took fourth at the Nicholas Barnett Trophy.
Next weekend, Tufts looks to find some bright spots to the season following this past weekend’s results. They head to the Captain Hurst Bowl at Dartmouth and the Navy Fall Invitational in Annapolis, Md.