CASTINE — The ice has melted in Penobscot Bay and the spring sailing season is underway for the Maine Maritime Academy sailing team.
The 38-member team trains on the academy’s fleet of 420 dinghies in Castine Harbor and the bay to prepare for racing up and down the New England coast.
The Mariners’ season began at the Icebreaker Invite at Mystic Lake, hosted by Tufts University on March 12. The competition lived up to its name, according to Coach Taylor Martin, veering early from calm to choppy seas.
“It was brutal,” he said. “It was a tough weekend for sailing, for being outside at all.”
Wind picked up after the first two races on Saturday to as high as 25 knots per hour, capsizing boats and ending racing early.
Sunday’s racing was called off before the 16 teams hit the water on Saturday because of a forecast of below-freezing temperatures and winds above 20 knots per hour.
The first two A-fleet races, though, had a 6-to-8-knot northerly wind to start, with sailors Quinn Collins and Courtney King struggling early to maintain a lane on the reach leg. But a solid start on the next race landed them their best finish in fourth place.
It was the B-Fleet team, crewed by Lochlann Ludwig and Nicho Paulu, that faced gusts reaching into 20 knots per hour and higher, while temperatures shifted. They finished 13th in their first race before capsizing in the second.
The Mariners ended with a 12th-place finish out of 16 teams from across the Northeast.
At Connecticut College, the Mariners raced A and B-fleet crews in a strong outgoing current on the Thames River for an overall 14th-place finish from the same number of teams.
Better results came on Sunday in the Coast Guard J-70 invite, where the Mariners placed third of eight teams after a tiebreaker with the Coast Guard Academy Bears.
The Mariners participate in dinghy and small keelboat races, but predominantly dinghy racing, Martin said.
“We actually have a pretty deep roster,” he noted. “Definitely our graduating senior class is our strongest group, but we actually have a good number of sophomores and juniors, too.”
The team includes local sailors Jillian Dow, a senior from Ellsworth, and freshmen Jacob Peabody of Mount Desert Island and Amelia Griffith of Castine. Penobscot resident Nick Steenberg is assistant coach.
“We all sail under one umbrella,” Martin explained. “We compete in all those different types of regattas. But everybody on the team is sailing all the boats we have. Who goes to what regatta really depends on what events we have that weekend and who does the best on those boats.”
Team goals for the season include automatic qualification for the national dinghy championship before the season ends with the national qualifying regatta. “Our goal is to consistently perform well enough to at least make it into the selection bracket for this spring.”
With five weekends of racing ahead before the national qualifying event, at the New England Co-ed Dinghy Championships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the team will host two regattas, a dinghy tournament fleet race on April 9 and 10 and the Colgate Invite Fleet Race on April 16 and 17.