Senior Perspective: Sailing's Liz Powers

Senior Perspective: Sailing's Liz Powers

Senior captains and representatives of varsity teams at Harvard contributed viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard. Each year the Senior Perspectives are compiled into a book and handed out at the Senior Letterwinner’s Dinner.

Senior Perspectives thus forms a valuable portion of each team’s legacy to sport at Harvard and to the permanent record built here by our varsity athletes. Throughout the summer, these senior essays will be posted to for all to see.

On the morning of August 24, 2006, my dad and I drove on the winding one-way streets of Cambridge in a torrential downpour. I was on my way to Mather House, the dorm where the sailing team was staying for preseason. A confusing mix of excitement and worry filled me.

The second I stepped on the sidewalk outside of Mather, the team captains came up to me and introduced themselves. They stood in the rain with me and helped me pull out my bags from the car. This simple act helped ease my worries.
That freshman preseason convinced me that I was going to love my four years at Harvard. Even though the combination of full days training on the water and weight lifting was challenging, I did not want preseason to end. In just a week, I considered my 25 teammates to be my friends. They supported me and helped me build confidence.
This feeling that I had after just a week with the sailing team has stuck with me over the past four years. We have been with each other through countless ups and the downs. We have celebrated together after finishing in top positions at nationals and comforted each other after disappointing regatta results and injuries. We have trained together in 80 degree weather in Cape Cod and dodged floating pieces of ice on the Charles River in 29 degree weather in February. Just a few weeks ago, I was competing with the women’s sailing team in Annapolis, Maryland sailing against 17 of the top teams in the country. On Saturday we spent eight hours on the water racing in freezing rain. At midday, while we were waiting to start our next race, the rain turned into harsh sleet. My crew and I looked at each other and laughed. Who in their right mind would be sitting in a sailboat with balls of ice attacking them? Well, we would. We love the sport of sailing. We love the family that we are a part of. Sure, the weather does not always cooperate. Sure, we have to make sacrifices to be on the team. We miss the fancy Sunday brunches in the dining hall each week. We miss parties and time to relax at school. But these sacrifices are worthwhile. The sailing team provides a community that is central to our lives.

In one of the first weeks of the fall of 2008, I injured my knee. This injury put me on crutches and prevented me from sailing for the rest of the season. While the injury certainly was disappointing, it gave me the opportunity to realize how much my team members mean to me. My first night back in my dorm room, my teammates surprised me with a homemade cake and poster size card. Even though they had raced all weekend and surely had hours of homework to do, they sacrificed their time to offer support and encouragement to me. This anecdote is just one small example of how my teammates have supported me over the past four years.


In addition to providing a family for me, sailing has also helped me learn discipline and time management. Because being a varsity athlete is so demanding, I have learned how to limit procrastination and efficiently complete my schoolwork. Sailing has been the perfect complement to schoolwork. It gave me something to look forward to as I was pushing myself to write my thesis or study for a midterm.

In February of 2009, I had the honor of being elected co-captain of the sailing team. I was excited to have the opportunity to help lead this community that had given me so much. Just as the co-captains stood in the rain with me when I was a freshman, I wanted to be there for my teammates and support them as they dealt with academic, athletic, and personal challenges.
When I think back at my time with the sailing team, a wide array of memories pop into my head. I think of sweating together at team lifts and freezing together in practices in the snow. I remember goofy van rides where my coaches and teammates were continually amazed by my utter lack of knowledge of musical artist on the radio. I think about lively team dinners and breakfasts after practice.
I am incredibly grateful for the time that I have been able to spend with teammates and coaches over the past four years.