PORTLAND — Four Mount Desert Island High School students are set to represent Maine and New England in the National Keelboat Invitational in Florida in December after winning a qualifying regatta Oct. 7.
Alec Fisichella skippered the J22 boat in the four-race regatta hosted by SailMaine in Portland Harbor. Lucas Ingebritson, Nate Ingebritson and Jake Peabody were the crew. All have been sailing for several years, on the high school club team organized by the MDI Community Sailing Center in the fall and on the official high school team in the spring.
They also all participate in fleet racing in the summer in the Luders and International One Design fleets. The racing organizations have worked to support youth sailing and involve younger sailors in fleet activities as part of the cooperative Great Harbor Dream program.
Fisichella has been sailing the Luders Ludicrous for several summers with Art Paine. This summer, Fisichella skippered Ludicrous for the August series, with Peabody as crew, and they won second place in the series. Fisichella and Lucas Ingebritson also sailed on Minerva in the IOD fleet, while Nate Ingebritson sailed on Mischief. They also helped crew Poppaea in the cruising class races.
The Luders and IODs are similar to the J22 keelboats used in this competition, but are significantly different from dinghies like 420s that dominate high school sailing competitions.
“It’s a lot of the same principles,” said Fisichella. “Everything happens just a little differently. In the 420s everything happens a lot faster, but they’re also more resilient.
“A mistake in a keelboat is a lot more costly than a mistake in a dinghy,” he continued, “so there’s a lot more planning involved.”
At the Portland regatta, the team was one of nine. They rotated boats every race, but the boats are nearly identical, Fisichella said. They finished second in the day’s first two races. They won the next, and finished with another second place for a decisive victory on the day. Their final score was 7 to the Portland team’s second-place score of 14.
The MDI team kept the roles on deck the same throughout the day: Fisichella sailing as skipper, Lucas Ingebritson trimming the mainsail and spinnaker, Peabody on the jib and Nate Ingebritson working the foredeck. Peabody was also in charge of tactics, “looking up and down the course, relaying information about wind and other boats,” Fisichella said. “His job was to have his eyes out of the boat.”
There were light winds in Portland Harbor, he said, and a strong current made it challenging to calculate their moves. The current “made it difficult to call the lay line for the windward,” he said, meaning planning for a final maneuver to approach the windward mark on a course.
“If you undershoot the lay line then you have to tack back. People who tacked closer to the lay line would sail less distance and be able to pass the boats that didn’t.”
The number 22 in the name “J22” does not correlate with the boat’s length, he said. A J22 is 22.5 feet long, and a J70 is 23 feet. The latter is what they’ll be racing in the national championships in Florida. These boats have an asymmetrical spinnaker, which will take some getting used to.
Fisichella said he began learning to sail in third grade and started racing when he was 11, in Sailing Center programs.
“Ever since then I always wanted to be on the high school sailing team. It’s a big part of my life. It’s a lot different than any other sport; it’s tactical, it requires you to think a lot. I like more strategic competition more than luck or even pure athleticism.”
The national regatta is set for Dec. 7-9 in St. Petersburg, Florida.