Sailing tallies three regatta wins in early-season racing

First year Jack Bitney, left, and junior Natalie Danziger sail on March 8. Courtesy Ken Legler

The co-ed sailing teams had a successful weekend in the water in just the second week of racing this spring season, with victories in all three of their regattas.

The team sent contingents to a pair of away regattas — the Ice Breaker event at Conn. College and the Rudkin Team Race at Roger Williams University — while hosting the Arctic Circle Team Invite on the Charles River. The Jumbos had teams finish in first in all three competitions.

As the Jumbos eased back into the spring season, they competed with two different racing styles: fleet racing and team racing. Fleet racing from Conn. College has two divisions with one boat from each school in each division. Team racing, featured at the Arctic Circle Invite and at Roger Williams, involves three boats per team all racing together, with the school to get all boats to cross the finish line first being crowned the winner. Tufts will focus predominantly on the first half of the spring season, since the team will race New England qualifiers much earlier in the season than the New England fleet races.

The Jumbos were able to earn a first-place finish in their first home race in the spring, thanks in large part to their upperclassmen skippers junior Scott Barbano, senior James Moody, junior Griffin Rolander and senior Casey Gowrie. First-year Cameron Holley, who raced at Roger Williams this weekend, gave high praise to the sailors competing back in Boston.

“Our A-team really stepped up and made big plays early that helped them clinch a win against some good teams,” Holley said.

Gowrie, though pleased with the team’s result, sees room for improvement.

“While we were happy to win the team race at MIT, we still lost some key races and realize there is a lot of work to be done,” he said.

The two Jumbo contingents that traveled south found similar success, rounding out the weekend with a sweep of the three regattas the team raced in.

“One of our main focuses was to improve our boat speed on the first leg of the team race,” Gowrie said. “We definitely improved our mindset to mix this speed mode with team racing mode, which helped us essentially lock up a lot of our races after the first leg.”

Some of the team’s younger sailors delivered big wins for Tufts at Roger Williams, where Holley, fellow first-year skipper Jack Bitney and junior skipper Alex Tong, along with their crews — sophomore Aaron Klein, junior Natalie Danziger and sophomore Lara Dienemann — raced their way to a first-place finish after compiling a 7-2 record over the two days to finish ahead of teams from Roger Williams and Northeastern University, as well as the No. 2 Tufts team.

The Jumbos also brought home a win from the fleet races at Conn. College in a more competitive field of nine teams. Fleet races are scored by combining the place finishes from both the A and B division teams, with a point for each first-place finish, two for second and so on, with the lowest overall team score winning after the two days of racing. Tufts finished the second day with 148 total points, tied with Yale but won through a head-to-head tiebreaker. Both teams tied with a score of 148, thoroughly beating the next best score of 186 from the Brown team. 

Despite the victories this weekend, both Holley and Gowrie agree that the true test of the team’s early-season preparedness will be this coming weekend, as the team spends their spring break in Maryland competing against a host of the nation’s top teams.

“We showed good boat speed all weekend but had some opportunities to make plays fall through, which means we need to make sure we’re more active and are executing plays effectively,” Gowrie said.

“It’s going to be tough, but hopefully we continue our positive momentum from last week and get some wins against some tough teams,” Holley said.

As the team continues to improve ahead of the New England qualifiers and looks ahead to nationals later this spring, Gowrie explained that the spring break competitions give the team a number of opportunities to compete in low-stakes events against strong teams as practice for more important regattas to come.

Last weekend’s three first-place finishes clearly bode well for the rest of the season to come, but the Jumbos, knowing that their hardest work is in front of them, remain humble.

“All in all, still a good win, but there are always things to refine if we want to qualify for nationals,” Gowrie said.