Robyn Lesh, successfully led the MIT Women’s Varsity Sailing Team as the “A” skipper to an 8th Place finish in the Women’s Collegiate National Championships held in San Diego. Only the very best teams in the entire nation were able to qualify to sail in the event and every top sailing team in the nation was represented. In an incredibly competitive group of 36 teams that qualified, only 18 made it through the eliminations that were sailed on the first two days and on to the finals. Now it was down to 18 top notch teams on the starting line for the final two days of the National Championships.
Even the slightest slip of a couple of seconds could put you at the back of this incredibly competitive group of talented sailors. Robyn’s best race was a first place finish. To maintain 8th place overall took tremendous skill and endurance over 4 long days of race after race. Each team had an “A” skipper with crew and a “B” skipper with crew. The “A” and “B” fleets raced separately. The MIT team placing in 8th place overall was definitely due to the entire team working together as a single unit and everyone contributing their maximum effort.
One final note on the MIT sailing team. MIT is the only collegiate sailing team that has introduced sailing helmets as mandatory for all of their team members. Concussions in dinghy racing are a common and very serious occurrence. Although introducing helmets seems like such an obvious response to such a serious problem, MIT is the only school to have taken this important step. Hopefully the entire high school and collegiate sailing world will catch on and follow suit before too many more student sailors have to suffer the disruption caused by serious concussions. There has not been a single concussion on the MIT sailing team since the introduction of sailing helmets. Pretty obvious, but once again MIT has taken the lead in implementing a solution to a widespread problem. Congratulations to MIT for taking the leadership and implementing a successful strategy.
Robyn has now graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in the Ocean Engineering Department in the Class of 2016. I had a splendid time attending the ceremony in Cambridge and even got to sail MIT boats on the Charles River a couple of times.
My younger daughter, Celia, just graduated with the Class of 2016 from University of Washington at age 19. Celia is also a great sailor and spent a month cruising together with Robyn on my 24 foot laminated cedar sloop up to Desolation Sound in BC. On the wildest day with winds gusting over 35 knots and 15 foot high seas, Robyn said that a lot of bigger boats were staying in harbor or returning to harbor, but that she had total confidence in the boat because I had built it and because it had sailed successfully across the Atlantic. Celia concluded that the day was one of the best days of her life. They were sailing across very open water at the top of the Salish Sea with an almost unlimited fetch and terrific waves and wind … and they both loved it. This is the spirit in which the Tippecanoe boats have been born – boats built by true sailors for true sailors to enjoy! Onwards Tippecanoe! Happy Sailing, Will Lesh