O'Connor and the Crimson are set for another successful year (photo courtesy Robert A. Migliaccio)
The Harvard sailing team's fall season is underway, and the team is young but ready to compete with the region's top teams.
The Crimson is set to compete in its second weekend of the fall, sending competitors to the Nevins Trophy at Kings Point and the Women's Mrs. Hurst Bowl at Dartmouth. Harvard will also compete locally in the Hatch Brown Trophy and Central Series Two regattas.
With a new set of All-Americans graduating each year recently, the Crimson is left with a young squad that is short on experience but has the talent and leadership to compete.
"We have some very young players who we'll be counting on to sail at the intersectional level," says head coach Mike O'Connor. "The fall season will be an invaluable opportunity to gain experience."
It's not all about experience, however. O'Connor expects his squad to be competitive as usual. The Crimson begins the season ranked seventh nationally on the coed side and eighth in women's racing.
Harvard will compete at several events every weekend, leading up to the Atlantic Coast Championships Nov. 14-15. The women's ACC will be held at Brown, while the Crimson will host the coed ACC on the Charles River. Harvard is not necessarily planning on being a kind host, at least when it comes to the racing.
"Any time we're hosting a championship on the River, we feel we have the capability to win it," says O'Connor. "The ACCs are always the regatta in the fall where everyone wants to give their best performance."
To make the ACC regatta, the Crimson coeds will first need a top-seven finish at the Schell Trophy, hosted by MIT. The women need a top-eight finish in the Victorian Coffee Urn, which they will host. Both qualifying regattas will take place Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
As with any young team, one key to success will be leadership, and O'Connor says his team's leaders are doing a great job so far. The women's team is captained by Liz Powers, while junior Alan Palmer is the captain and top skipper on the coed side. They will rely on the rest of the senior class, including crew Michelle Konstadt, to help keep the younger athletes on track for success.
Palmer and classmate Grace Charles are the Crimson's starting tandem in the coed A division. They placed eighth last weekend at Yale's Harry Anderson Trophy, racing in a 20-school field that featured most of the nation's top teams. Palmer is coming off an All-New England season.
In the B division, junior Tedd Himler and Konstadt, Harvard's representatives last weekend at Yale, figure to remain key players. Sophomore Annie DeAngelo will also sail alongside Himler this fall.
Palmer, Charles, Himler, Konstadt and senior Winston Yan all contributed to Harvard's sixth-place finish at the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association/APS Team Race National Championship in the spring. Three other members of that team will rejoin the Crimson this spring after studying abroad in the fall.
The fall season also features singlehanded racing. Jason Michas, one of several talented freshmen joining the Harvard roster this fall, will sail in the singlehanded C division at this weekend's Nevins Trophy. He could be among the Crimson competitors at the New England Men's Singlehanded Championship Oct. 10-11. Himler has also competed at the event in the past. Top finishers will qualify for the national regatta Nov. 6-8 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The Crimson women got off to a good start to the fall, placing fourth at the inaugural Antonia Schuman Trophy last weekend. Sophomores Emily Lambert and Alexandra Jumper took fourth in the A division, while Powers and sophomore Marie Appel took fourth in the B division.
Harvard qualified for the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association Women's National Championship last season, placing 10th. The Crimson women are set for another good year, despite their youth.
"We feel like we can win any weekend that we execute well," O'Connor says. "When our players start well, they're hard to beat."
With a full fall season of racing under its belt and its full roster intact, the Crimson figures to be even better this spring. Harvard qualified for the coed dinghy, team racing and women's national regattas last season, placing in the top 10 in each discipline.
The Crimson will look to repeat that feat in 2009-10, challenging for New England titles along the way and continuing its tradition as one of the top programs in college sailing.