Just as John B.L. Soule wrote in 1851, “Go West, young man and grow up with the country,” the Hoyas took a long trip to Long Beach, Calif., and moved closer to the top of the sailing world – or, at least, the country.

Georgetown finished first at the western national semifinals of the ICSA national championships this weekend, turning in a dominant coed dinghy performance in the form of a 20-point win over second-place Yale.

While the win was not necessary to advance – the top nine of 18 teams qualify for the finals – it did push Georgetown to the top of a short list of title contenders for June’s national championships in Newport, R.I.

“After the first few races, it was pretty clear it was going to be between us and Yale,” Head Coach Mike Callahan said. “It was only a two-team race for first place.”

Senior Chris Behm and junior Carly Chamberlain put together one of their best races of the season in the victory. The two won five of the first eight races and placed first or second in nine of the 14 races. Callahan and Behm attributed the success to favorable winds that mimicked those Georgetown practices in on the Potomac River.

“It was perfect conditions,” Callahan said. “We knew exactly what we wanted to do in each race, and when you plan really well, we were just faster than everybody else.”

The B-division boat of freshman Charlie Buckingham and sophomore Alexandra Taylor came close to matching Behm’s and Chamberlain’s success but for a few untimely penalties. The two had a five-race stretch where they finished 11th, third, 12th, eighth and eighth after winning four of the first six races.

“[Buckingham] had to take a lot of penalty turns, so you could easily take 20 points off his score [of 61] if he hadn’t done some stupid things,” Callahan said.

The races were some of the best of Buckingham’s young career: He and Taylor had eight top-three finishes in 14 races. Buckingham, like Chamberlain, gave Georgetown an edge by having raced Long Beach throughout high school.

For Behm, the semifinals were one of his last races, and after a long season of less-than-perfect finishes, his team is peaking at the right time.

“All those [earlier] regattas count for something, obviously, but the ones that really count come at the end,” he said. “Everybody is looking forward to these last regattas, wanting to do well. Especially losing to St. Mary’s over and over again has gotten us really fired up.”

Behm and Callahan say that the intensity of practices this season have pushed Georgetown into elite status. While the Potomac River provides inconsistent and light practice winds, the 25 sailors who did not make the trip to California made a difference.

“Everybody on the team’s been doing their job and pushing us harder,” he said. “The better practice we have, the more prepared we are. I think that’s been a little bit different this year, everybody pushing hard, a different mindset.”

The team resumes racing in Newport, R.I., on May 26 at the women’s national championships with the team race and coed championships following through the week.

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