Amid the heat of the fleet racing season, the sailing team competed on the Charles River last weekend in the oldest regatta in the nation, the 81st annual Boston Dinghy Challenge Cup.
There were 17 teams competing in three divisions, with nine races per division, and Tufts took sixth place overall. Harvard University’s team won the event with a score of 152 points, followed by fellow Ivy League schools Dartmouth College with 168 points and Brown University with 169 points. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took fourth with 170 points, followed by Boston College with 181 points, just one point higher than Tufts. Spots two through eight were separated by only 21 points, making it an exciting regatta down to the last few races.
The Jumbos were pleased with their races this weekend, although they felt that the standings do not reflect the way they contended.
“We definitely expected a good finish at this regatta, but I think our performance exceeded everyone’s expectations when we had an opportunity to win the regatta going into the last couple of races,” senior Casey Gowrie, the skipper of the C division boat, said. “It was very close racing, and with some bad final races we fell out of the top five, but overall it was encouraging.”
Teams are scored by the sum of their finishes in their nine races in each division, with the lowest total team score winning. For Tufts, the B division pair of junior skipper Scott Barbano and senior tri-captain crew Caroline Atwood came in fourth and scored a total of 46 points, the lowest score of the Jumbo boats. Barbano and Atwood won the fifth race out of the nine and finished third on four separate occasions.
The A division boat of junior skipper Griffin Rolander and sophomore crew Emily Shanley-Roberts came in eighth with a score of 75 points. Rolander and Shanley-Roberts finished first in the seventh race and second in the first.
The C division boat featuring Gowrie as the skipper and junior Liz Fletcher, who scored 61 total points and finished fifth in their division, earned first place in the fourth race and finished as the runners-up in the second and fifth races.
“Everyone was extremely happy with our performance, especially given we were at the top for most of the regatta,” Gowrie said.
Barbano, one of the team’s most successful skippers all year, is maintaining his focus heading into next weekend.
“We had some awesome races but we had some things we still need to improve on,” he said. “It was overall an awesome weekend for preparation, and we are excited to take the positives from this past weekend into this coming weekend.”
After failing to qualify for team race nationals just a few weeks ago, the team has had its sights set on qualifying for Fleet Race Nationals, which will be decided next week when the team travels to Dartmouth.
Dartmouth is home to the New England Fleet Race qualifier, playing host to 18 schools, with nine advancing to nationals.
Though the Jumbos missed out on team race nationals, they know they can still have a successful season if they race to the best of their ability in the coming weeks. Tufts has a team that is capable of strong finishes, as it has shown in the past, but it has not been able to consistently get the results it is capable of.
After two strong weeks of fleet racing at Coast Guard for the Thompson Trophy two weekends ago and in Cambridge this past weekend, the team has the confidence it needs going into the most important weeks of the season.
Barbano kept it very simple when asked what his outlook on the future of the season was.
“Our hopes are to qualify and make the trip out to California and have a strong showing at Nationals [in late May]” he said.
The Jumbos are certainly ambitious with their goals, but they don’t seem unrealistic. If they continue to execute successfully during races, they should be in shape to make a late push.
Gowrie knows this is well within reach, but that it will require the whole team to step up and do its best racing yet.
“It will be very tough competition, as everyone always steps it up for championships, but we’re confident that we are among the teams that are fighting it out for those spots,” he said. “If we can put together days like we did on Saturday at the Boston Dinghy Cup, then we should be in good shape to move on.”