In their journey to rediscover their elite form en route to Nationals, the Tufts coed sailing team has made heady progress since their tightly contested fourth-place finish at the Friis & Marchiando Trophies just two weeks ago.
Since then, they’ve ventured forward in securing a spot in the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) National semi-finals with a third-place finish at this year’s New England ICSA Dinghy Championships hosted by Brown two weekends ago, followed by a tight sixth-place finish at this weekend’s Admiral’s Cup, hosted by the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Peering over the field of 18 squads, the Jumbos trotted out their best for the regional dinghy championship on April 20, with junior skipper and tri-captain William Haeger and classmate crew Paula Grasberger in the A-division, the B-division, senior tri-captain William Hutchings split skipper duties with sophomore Alejandro Ruiz-Ramon, while junior Kathleen Kwasniak rotated the crew spot with sophomore classmates Jamie Maffeo and Sam Madden.
Haeger and Grasberger flashed perhaps their best cumulative performance of the semester with victories in the first, fifth, eighth, 10th and 12th races and with consistent efforts throughout. The Jumbos finished with a dominant 70-point A-division run, bested only by Roger Williams University, who nudged by the Jumbos in their 15th race, giving them a final score of 69 points.
“The highlight for me was being able to sail freely and without the worry that we wouldn’t qualify,” Haeger said of his performance. “In years past, we’ve been right on the edge of not qualifying, but this year, thanks to a hot start, we didn’t have to worry about that and could just focus on sailing well.”
“[Because of our starts] we were just able to do whatever we wanted, and we got all the great finishes we needed and kept focus the entire time,” Grasberger said.
On the other side, the B-division squad put together a solid performance. They suffered from inconsistency: Hutchings led four top-five finishes (including a victory in his third race) and Ruiz-Ramon earned two top-four finishes, but the wins were balanced out but with some lower finishes. Overall, the squad finished with 124 points.
With a final cumulative score of 194 points, the Jumbos placed well ahead of their A-division rival, Roger Williams, and just behind Boston College’s 182 points. Host Brown University took the trophy and top honors with 163 points, and those four squads along with Dartmouth, Yale, MIT and Conn. College will advance to the ICSA National semifinals April 27-28.
“I’m pretty psyched about the results,” Haeger said. “All the effort the team has been putting in this year finally showed in the results. On top of that, we know that we can sail even better.”
“Nationals has been our goal for the semester,” Grasberger added. “We were all motivated to do well, and that’s just what we did.”
With their main qualifier over, the Jumbos moved into this weekend’s competition seeking to improve before this weekend’s National Semifinals at the USMMA’s Admiral’s Cup. With three divisions, including a third single-handed C-division, the team returned Haeger, Grasberger, Hutchings and Kwasniak, along with freshman crew Maxwell Bennett and classmate James Moody, who handled the C-division.
Both the A-and B-division teams finished sixth, but the most impressive result was Moody’s performance during the C-division, in which he single-handedly tallied 88 points. He tied the U.S. Naval Academy senior George Prieto for third place (a head-to-head tiebreaker bumped Moody down to fourth), and was just four points shy of matching Dartmouth senior John Renehan.
“He had a really good regatta for his first time sailing a laser,” Grasberger said. “He had at least one win and a couple of other high finishes.”
Overall, the Jumbos finished in sixth place, with 295 points, just shy of the Naval Academy’s 290. However, with the looming end-of-the-year Nationals quickly approaching, there is confidence that the team will only increase their intensity.
“I’m not too concerned about [our performance at the Admiral’s.] I know that we’ll ramp up the intensity this coming weekend at seminfinals and perform a lot better,” Haeger added.
“We’re feeling pretty good about semifinals. The New England region is the most competitive district, so we’ll be ready for the competition this weekend,” Grasberger said.
The team will look to finish off their semester with the ICSA Eastern Dinghy Semifinals this upcoming weekend, and the New England Team Racing Championships and ICSA Team Racing Championships in the following weekends.