CASTINE — Though objective evidence may be scant, spring is here, or at least it’s on the horizon.
Last week, Maine Maritime Academy held its annual dinner for the student organizations that make the waterfront their home: the MMA Yacht Club, the Schooner Bowdoin crew and the Mariners’ sailing team.
By coincidence, last Tuesday’s event marked six months to the day since varsity sailing coach Taylor Martin came to MMA, and he took the opportunity to review the fall 2018 season and talk about the team and its prospects for the spring.
Martin has high expectations for the dinghy team, which is scheduled to open its season with a fleet racing event in late March, sailing for the Vietor Trophy at the U.S, Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
The team racing season is scheduled to get underway the same weekend with a series of regattas in Massachusetts.
“Often, as sailors, we’re not seen as athletes, but we’re as passionate about our sport as any others,” Martin said. “Our mantra is ‘it’s our turn now!’ The Ivy League,” which often dominates collegiate sailing in the Northeast, “has had its way long enough.”
For more than a decade, March has meant a trip to the West Coast and the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup Regatta, sailed in Catalina 37 offshore sloops, for MMA’s big-boat sailors. The Mariners won the inaugural event in 2008, repeated their victory in 2009 and have been competitive in most of the succeeding events.
This year, though, the Mariners won’t get a chance to try for a third win.
Over the past 11 years, the invitational POLA Cup has become enormously popular among collegiate sailors and, with the fleet limited to 10 — the number of boats available — this year’s entry list was oversubscribed 16 applicants.
The number should come as no surprise. Several teams accepted for the regatta represent schools that didn’t have competitive big-boat sailing teams when the regatta began and a March trip to Los Angeles has a lot of appeal to sailors from the Northeast.
Although they won’t be heading out west this year, MMA sailors who are around this coming summer will have a chance to race in perhaps a dozen Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association (GMORA) events aboard Tasman, a Sydney 38 one-design coastal racing sloop donated to the academy last summer.
Last year, with academy sailing master JM Payne serving as coach, a largely student crew sailing the unfamiliar boat, MMA took part in 10 of the 11 scheduled GMORA races and finished second statewide and third in the PenBay division. It was the first time MMA qualified for the GMORA circuit, by sailing in enough events, since 2008.
GMORA rules required that the MMA crew include at least two students but, Payne said last week that, except for one race, the boat’s crew was “pretty much all students.
“I expect to be even more competitive this year,” Payne said.