Harvard Wins Dramatic College Sailing Open Fleet Championship

Harvard sailors stage a triumphant comeback to win their sixth national title, this time on the challenging Charles River.
Harvard University Sailing Team
Harvard University Sailing Team’s winning college sailing squad at the 2024 Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association’s Open Fleet Race National Championship, held in Boston on the Charles River. HDFA Photography

After an emotional two days of racing on the iconic Charles River where sailors contended with the notoriously unpredictable winds, Harvard University emerged victorious, clinching the college sailing 2024 Open Fleet Race National Championship. The prestigious event was co-hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown.

The first day of the regatta faced challenges with light air conditions causing a delayed start. The morning’s inconsistent breeze even forced the abandonment of Race 1A. However, the wind picked up to 5-10 knots East Northeast, allowing ten races to be conducted. Spectators were treated to a nail-biting spectacle as Yale University and Harvard University vied fiercely for the top spot throughout the day. By the end of day one, Yale led with 106 points, closely followed by Harvard with 118 points, and Dartmouth College trailing with 134 points. The intensity of the competition was evident, with teams battling neck and neck at every mark rounding.

College sailing dinghies racing on the Charles River
The Charles River proved to be as challenging as ever, playing into the hands of Harvard’s sailors on the final day. HDFA Photography

Bill Healy, Yale’s Associate Head Coach, remarked on the challenging conditions: “The Charles threw a lot of curveballs at us, and we held strong with the home team the whole time. We’re really proud of that. Harvard and MIT did an amazing job as usual!”

Cloudy skies and light winds marked the start of the second day, but as the day progressed, conditions improved to 6-10 knots East Northeast. Race 17B had to be abandoned due to a lull, but the race committee quickly adapted to the incoming southerly breeze, resetting the course to squeeze in two more races in B division and one in A division. In a stunning turn of events, Harvard won race 17B, propelling them ahead of Yale. The Crimson sailors secured their victory with a tenth place in 18A and a seventh place in 18B, finishing with an eight-point lead over the Bulldogs. Dartmouth maintained their third-place position with 247 points.

This is Harvard’s sixth open national title. Justin Callahan (Class of ’26) and Kennedy Leehealey (Class of ’26), the skipper and crew who won B division overall, reflected on the triumph: “It feels absolutely amazing – it is something special to have the points that close and then have classic Charles conditions for those last two races. We had to win it on the Charles. We seriously could not have done it without our shore crew, coaches, and team. We feel like it couldn’t be more perfect. We were scared we were not going to be able to get the last couple of races in and then it stabilized, which is just classic Charles conditions. We said before the last two races this is what we came for; this is what everyone came for. To have the last two races we did was incredible. We just put our heads down because you never know what will happen on the Charles. It could be anyone’s game. All we can do is sail our own race and do our best.”

Harvard sailor
Harvard sailors captured the title in the final race of the regatta. HDFA Photography

The 2024 Open Fleet Race National Championship will be remembered not just for Harvard’s triumphant comeback, but for the sheer excitement and resilience displayed by all competitors on the challenging waters of the Charles River.

2024 ICSA Open Fleet Race National Championship Final Results:

  1. Harvard University
  2. Yale University
  3. Dartmouth College
  4. Brown University
  5. U.S. Coast Guard Academy
  6. Boston College
  7. Stanford University
  8. U.S. Naval Academy
  9. Bowdoin College
  10. College of Charleston
  11. Roger Williams University
  12. Tufts University
  13. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  14. University of Rhode Island
  15. Georgetown University
  16. St. Mary’s College of Maryland
  17. Tulane University
  18. Hobart and William Smith Colleges