CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—The Harvard sailing team captured its first New England Dinghy Championship in 11 years Sunday on the Charles River, moving up from third place with five top-five finishes in 12 races on the final day of competition.
The host Crimson, led by a first-place performance in the A division by Brendan Kopp and Sarah Pierson, needed only a top-eight finish in the field of 18 schools to move on to the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association National Championship semifinals May 12-13 at Navy. The Crimson, however, led the regatta by the end of the second round of races Sunday and held off stiff competition the rest of the way.
"We're really excited about our performance this weekend," said head coach Mike O'Connor. "I'm really proud of the team because it's one of the most difficult regattas on the ICSA schedule, given the depth of competition."
Harvard finished with 231 points, nine fewer than runner-up Roger Williams and 19 fewer than third-place Yale. Dartmouth, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts and Brown also qualified for the national semis. Kopp and Pierson totaled just 110 points, four fewer than any other A-division pair, while Emily Lambert and Brian Drumm placed fifth in the B division with 121 points.
After 12 races in each division Saturday, Boston College led, with the Crimson seven points back. After finishing fifth and eighth, respectively, in their first races Sunday, Harvard's B-division and A-division groups finished first and second in their second races. That gave the Crimson a five-point lead on the field that grew with two A-division wins in the final four rounds.
"The racing was incredibly close throughout with very few points separating a lot of teams, right down to the wire," O'Connor said. "Our kids were able to keep their focus and really sail well. I think the key to our success was that we avoided any huge finishes, and we were consistently able to race near the top of the fleet, which in these conditions is very difficult to do."
Facing inconsistent wind velocities and huge wind shifts all weekend, Kopp and Pierson finished seventh or better in 11 of 18 races, seven top-three finishes and two victories. In the B division, Lambert and Drumm recorded top-five showings in half of their weekend races.
Harvard last won the New England coed title in 2001 at Rhode Island, its second straight league championship. The Crimson will seek a spot in the ICSA National Dinghy Championship June 6-8 at Texas. Harvard has placed in the top three at the national regatta in each of the last two seasons.
Roger Williams 240
Boston College 261
Boston University 267
Brown 274 (won head-to-head tiebreaker)
Rhode Island 311
Connecticut College 331
Salve Regina 392
U.S. Coast Guard Academy 481
Maine Maritime 514