SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Like the first two games of the NBA finals, the 20th annual Welles Cup regatta went right to the wire and couldn’t have been closer.
Sailing on their home waters last Wednesday, the Mount Desert Island High School Trojans hung tough against George Stevens Academy to win their third consecutive Welles Cup team racing regatta. The final score was Trojans 5, Eagles 4.
The Welles Cup is sailed as a team racing event, with each school sending three boats onto the water. Boats earn points based on their order of finish, with the first boat earning one point and the sixth boat earning six. The team with the lowest aggregate score in each race wins.
MDI began the day holding a 3-1 lead after the first round of the regatta, sailed the previous week in Castine. Last Wednesday, GSA put up a tougher fight, winning three of the day’s five races in decisive fashion and narrowly missing a fourth win in the dying late afternoon breeze.
The Welles Cup marks the end of the high school sailing season that began in March when there was still ice in the water.
“It is hard to believe it is all over for another season,” MDI sailing coach George Deans said in an email last week. “It seems long during it and so short when all the motion stops.”
Two weeks ago in Castine, the teams raced in a brisk westerly that gave a boat with a poor start little chance to improve its place in the fleet. Last week, though, a shifty northeast breeze — light inside Clark Point but quite sharp beyond — gave the sailors a chance to display their team racing tactics.
MDI entered the day with a 3-1 lead after the first round of the regatta, but even after GSA took the first race of the afternoon it looked like the Trojans would hold serve and take home the cup once again. Turned out the fat lady still had a song or two in her repertoire.
All the GSA skippers, Karina Steenberg, Yvonne Rogers, Dylan Pierce Morey and Eliza Guinness, showed good boat speed throughout the day. Given the chance, they used several good starts to tactical advantage — sitting on the fastest MDI boats to win three of the day’s first four races and tie the regatta at four races each.
With the breeze dying away and little chance to overtake, MDI won the start of the day’s final race, maintained its lead and sailed off with the win. It was the Trojans third consecutive Welles Cup win and its 12th victory overall.
“The Welles Cup ended in a 5-4 split to our good,” Deans said. “We retain the cup.”
The Welles Cup is named in honor of “Admiral” Ted Welles, founder of the Oceanus Institute in Southwest Harbor. His efforts in the late 1980s were largely responsible for establishing a sailing program at MDI High School that is generally considered to have formed the first Maine high school sailing team. Today, at least a dozen Maine schools and community sailing programs maintain competitive sailing programs for high school students. In early May, the two-day Downeast Regatta at Maine Maritime Academy boasted teams from 16 public and private secondary schools from throughout New England.
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