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Undermanned Sailing Beats the Odds at NEISA Team Race Championships

Harvard sailing attended NE Women's Championships on April 20, 2019. More recently, they attended the NEISA Team Race Championships in Cambridge, M.A.
Harvard sailing attended NE Women's Championships on April 20, 2019. More recently, they attended the NEISA Team Race Championships in Cambridge, M.A. By Timothy R. O'Meara

A breezy Charles River Basin hosted the NEISA Team Race Championships over the weekend, with an injury-riddled Harvard side overcoming adversity to place second in the 12-team competition.

The Crimson, who finished the two-day regatta with a 11-5 record, won a 2/3rd sailoff vs. Dartmouth (11-5) on Sunday to finish in second behind Ivy league rival Yale (12-4).

In a disjointed round one, which was halted on Saturday due to weather and completed on Sunday, Harvard went 8-3, tied with Roger Williams (8-3) and sitting behind Yale (9-2) and Dartmouth (10-1).

“The first day was the most chaotic day of sailing I’ve ever had,” said junior Chris Wang, who raced as crew in a boat skippered by senior Henry Burnes.

“We only sailed five races…we were really distracted that day because they were constantly calling people on and off.”

Despite the frantic conditions, the Crimson came out of Saturday with three wins and only two losses against Dartmouth and Roger Williams.

The remainder of round one on Sunday saw an improved performance, with Harvard winning five races and only slipping up against Brown, a race which was mired by a bad start and numerous fouls.

Shortly following round one was a tightly contested Final 6 round robin, where no team won more than three races. Harvard was one of the teams to do so, claiming victories against NEISA heavyweights Dartmouth, Yale and Tufts. A 3-2 record brought their cumulative record to 11-5 at the close of the second round, pitting them against Dartmouth (11-5) in a Sailoff for 2nd/3rd. Wang highlighted the significance of the Crimson’s win against Yale.

“Yale is the number one ranked team in the entire nation, and we didn't lose to them all weekend, which was really good,” Wang said.“Sticking to what we know, our playbook, what we practice consistently despite how competitive or intimidating the (opposing) team was…sailing to our potential allowed us to win.”

Going into the sailoff, Harvard had the momentum on a stumbling Dartmouth team, who went 1-4 in the Final 6 racing after leading round one. After a long day of racing, the Crimson rallied one last time, winning 1-2-5 vs. 3-4-6 to finish the 2022 NEISA Team Championships in second place – just one win behind Yale.

“We had all wanted to go to Yardfest at this point because it was already five o’clock…we all had a lot of stuff to do, but we pulled it together and we beat Dartmouth,” Wang said.

With a second place finish on the weekend, Harvard put themselves in a strong position to be selected for the ICSA Team Race Championship after the first-place Bulldogs secured the lone automatic bid available.

The runner-up placing was a special moment for the team, which has had a tough run with injury this semester.

“What was really satisfying about this weekend was that we had gone through this whole year dragging our feet in the mud, seeing more people get concussions, hip injuries, back injuries…we were out six of our best people,” Wang said. “And we did the best we have in 13 years.”

Wang noted that in addition to overcoming an injured roster, the team witnessed their walk-ons step up to the plate. As a walk-on himself, he has had to step up to fill a role that would usually be a recruited position at counterpart schools like Yale and Dartmouth, according to Wang. He applauded his fellow walk-ons, such as first-year Alexandra Dorofeev and junior Cassia Lee, for stepping up in difficult conditions while many teammates are out of commission.

Wang also had high praise for sophomore skipper Dylan Ascencios, who has come a long way for the program since being recruited. “I think Dylan has shown exceptional improvement this semester, and everyone has seen that because he and Alexandra have been going incredibly fast.”

Wang attributed the weekend's performance to the work ethic of the team.

“We've been really accountable this season…having everyone fully committed to being as good as possible.”

The Crimson will now await selection for the ICSA Team Race Championship, which will be hosted by Tulane University in New Orleans, L.A. on May 16-18th.

—Staff writer Brahm Erdmann can be reached at brahm.erdmann@thecrimson.com.

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