Maine Maritime Academy sailing team members Annika Zayac, Steven Bell and Alison Mitchell were named Academic All-Americans by the Inter-collegiate Sailing Association of North America, the collegiate sport’s national governing body. The award honors students who sail a full slate of regattas and maintain high academic standards. PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Mariner sailors nab All-American honors

CASTINE — A testament to the idea that it is possible to both play hard and work hard, three Maine Maritime Academy sailors have been named to the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association of North America’s 2015 All-Academic Sailing Team.

The honors went to Alison Mitchell, a fifth-year senior from Marion, Mass., senior Steven Bell, of Blue Hill and junior Annika Zayac of Saco.

Mitchell will graduate next spring with a double major in marine biology and small vessel operations.

Bell majored in small vessel operations and will also graduate at the end of next semester.

Zayac is a vessel operations and technology major in MMA’s limited license program. She is scheduled to graduate in December 2016.

Established in 2006, the ICSA All-Academic Sailing Team is selected by a committee from among juniors and seniors who were “key” starters or reserves for their college sailing teams, participated in at least seven regattas during the academic year and maintained a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.

All three Mariners have raced in dinghies for MMA and are key members of the school’s offshore sailing team. In big-boat regattas, Bell sails in the cockpit as tactician, Mitchell works in the “pit” amidships and Zayac sails on the bow.

Sailing in the pit involves managing the forward part of the boat and coordinating all the halyards and sail changes that take place during a race. The pitman often doubles as a winch grinder.

Sailing on the bow, according to some sailing authorities, requires strength, acrobatic abilities and “large reserves of courage.”

MMA sailing coach Caroline McNally called Zayac “our token bow magic-maker.”

McNally said that it was largely thanks to the efforts of Bell, Mitchell and Zayac that MMA was able to maintain its intercollegiate sailing program during the fall season the ended last month.

“These three specific people are the reason the sailing team was able to compete in the absence of a sailing coach,” McNally said. While taking on that responsibility, the coach added, Bell, Mitchell and Zayac “kept up amazing academic standards.”

It was a short trip for Bell to come to MMA and its sailing team. He learned about the academy during the four years he sailed for George Stevens Academy. Castine is the home port for GSA’s sailing team. At present, he is thinking about applying to MMA’s graduate program next year.

Mitchell and Zayac both started their journeys to MMA, and sailing, as students aboard the schooner Westward, though at different times. Zayac will return to MMA next year to complete her degree and then is “pretty sure I’ll go into the towing industry.”

Mitchell is weighing her options for the future but is pretty sure they include graduate school “at some point,” though perhaps after some time off for post-graduate travel and sailing.


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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