Downeast Regatta: A tale of two weather systems

By Stephen Rappaport and Amanat Khullar

CASTINE — More than 100 sailors representing 20 high schools from Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts converged on Maine Maritime Academy last Saturday to sail in the Downeast Invitational Fleet Regatta.

After 16 races sailed over two days, the Tabor Academy Seawolves, from Marion, Mass., took home the James Modisette Trophy as the runaway overall winner.

The Yarmouth Clippers were fourth overall but the first Maine high school team in the standings. They took home the Griff Fenton Trophy and the title of Maine State High School Sailing champions. But for a blast of wind on Saturday, that trophy might have come home with the Trojans of Mount Desert Island High School where Fenton taught, and coached the sailing team, for many years.

Mount Desert Island High School sailors compete during day one of the weekend-long Downeast Invitational Fleet Regatta held at Maine Maritime Academy. The Trojan sailors finished fifth overall of 17 teams from New England, and second in the state school championship. ISLANDER PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Mount Desert Island High School sailors compete during day one of the weekend-long Downeast Invitational Fleet Regatta held at Maine Maritime Academy. The Trojan sailors finished fifth overall of 17 teams from New England, and second in the state school championship.                 PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Sailing with a young team, and with one top skipper and crew unavailable on Saturday, George Stevens Academy finished 10th overall and fourth among the Maine official high school teams.

Sailing conditions hardly could have been more different on Saturday and Sunday. The first day was clear, sunny and warm enough for sailors to race in T-shirts and shorts. Spectators and crews waiting on a float in Smith Cove for their chance to race made some heavy progress on their early season suntans.

In the morning, the winds were generally light and shifty, clocking 90 degrees between north-northwest and north-northeast. By mid-afternoon, the wind had settled into a 16 to 18-knot southeast breeze that put the boats on the rail, the young sailors on guard and gave warning of what the next day would bring.

Sunday brought March weather back to Castine – gray skies, spits of rain, wooly hats and plenty of wind. Sailors who struggled with keeping their boats moving on Saturday focused on keeping them upright on Sunday.

MDI brought a full team to the regatta. Team “1” boat was skippered by Chris Booher and Chloe Vincenty for all eight races in the “A” division.

In division “B,” Connor Ratcliff skippered in all eight races for team “1,” with Kincaid MacCulloch on crew in the first two and Kevin Elk in the next six.

They finished fifth overall of 17 teams and second in the state school championship with a total score of 96, trailing seven points behind top Maine high school finisher Yarmouth, a dozen points behind the third-place Rockland Community sailing team.

The difference-maker was a penalty for failing to finish the fourth race of the day while standing at the top of the Maine high school fleet. The Trojan sailors somehow didn’t get the word that the finish line had been moved because the committee boat dragged out of position because of high winds and strong flood tide.

“The claim was that the mark boat was positioned off the leeward mark and was informing boats as they rounded,” MDI assistant sailing Coach John Macauley said Monday. “The MDI skipper said that he was not informed, and although he noted the mark boat as they were coming downwind, the boat moved off before they got there.”

The miscommunication cost MDI a fourth place finish and 14 points.

“It was very frustrating, but that’s the way it goes,” Macauley said. “We try to instill in our sailors some grace and maturity, and I believe that they exhibited an abundance of it in this case, as they really had no recourse.”

MDI had a second team of Alec Fisichella and Lucas Ingebritson in division “A.”

The division “B” boat was skippered by Hutchin Gerrish with Emma Strong as crew in races one, two, and from five to eight.

Lily Anderson was on crew with Gerrish in races three and four. They finished in 13th place with a total score of 194.

“Our folks did a great job on the water, adjusting to dramatic changes in weather and current typical of that area,” Macauley added. “Currents are especially challenging, as Castine lies at the mouth of both the Penobscot River and Bagaduce River. Winds varied from dead calm to gusting over 20 knots.”

According to head Coach George Deans, the two-day sailing regatta “saw some fantastic sailing” from the Trojan sailors. “These were our top finishes in many years. The sailors deserve a lot of credit. They were up against some of the best sailors in New England.”

Most of the competing teams, he said, were evenly matched, thus “the overall lead and the next four places were always in question.”

This year’s regatta saw several composite teams with students from more than one high school, and one even included a couple of home-schooled students.

In addition to the Boothbay Harbor team, composite teams included: Southern Maine, sponsored by SailMaine in Portland, with students from Kennebunk HS, Deering HS, Thornton Academy and the Merriconeag Waldorf School in Freeport; Rockland Community Sailing with students from Oceanside HS, Watershed HS in Camden and some home-schoolers; and Northern Vermont, with students from Burlington HS and three other high schools from the Northern Kingdom region.

“This gave all the sailors there a chance to sail and make up teams for other schools who could not fill out both boats in their divisions,” said Deans. “We are fortunate to have enough sailors to make two teams and still be able to help others.”

MDI sailors sailing for a composite team from Camden Hill Regional High School were Griffin Costello-Sander as skipper and Elk as crew in their “B” boat.

MacCulloch and Elk switched places for better balance as the winds picked up later in the day on Saturday and continued to blow harder on Sunday.

“Schools and teams sharing sailors demonstrated the strong community of sailing and the effort to help everyone be competitive.”

The MDI varsity team is now preparing for the Bulldog Classic Regatta in Portland set for Saturday, May 21, at 9 a.m.

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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