CASTINE — Two days without wind left the Maine Maritime Academy sailing team at the back of the fleet in two weekend regattas, one in Annapolis and the other in Boston.
MMA finished ninth at the McMillan Cup regatta, hosted by the U.S. Naval Academy, and 18th in the Oberg Trophy dinghy event, sailed on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge.
The Mariner big boat team was at Navy for two days of racing for the Tiffany silver Champagne glass symbolizing victory in the McMillan Cup. Sailed annually since 1930, the regatta is the oldest collegiate sailing event in the nation. Originally held at sailing centers along the East Coast, the event has been sailed in Annapolis since 1950 with Navy hosting the regatta sailed in the academy’s 44-foot offshore training sloops.
Ten colleges sent teams to this year’s event, including all the East Coast military and maritime academies, the University of Rhode Island, North Carolina State and Queen’s University from Canada. The expectation was for two days of fierce competition on Chesapeake Bay. Instead, there were two days of intense frustration.
Saturday morning, the fleet motored out of the academy sailing basin and into Chesapeake Bay to wait, and wait, and wait for the start of the day’s racing. Eventually, with no wind in the offing, the fleet was sent back to shore to hope for better sailing conditions on Sunday.
The wait was largely futile.
Early last week, the rules for the event were changed “in anticipation of light air,” according to MMA sailing coach Caroline Councell, to allow just one race to constitute an official regatta. The usual minimum at the McMillan and other collegiate big boat events is a half-dozen or more.
“That’s exactly what happened,” Councell said in a text message. “The event…was determined by one race that started in 3.5 knots of breeze and died down to zero.”
And it was barely a race at all. The dying breeze force the race committee to shorten the course by half its length to squeeze in that single race before the breeze died completely. The difficult conditions also led to protests, and disqualifications, against the boats sailed by Queen’s and Army.
“It was a painful weekend,” Councell said. “The team did not have the best start, and at one point they were in fourth, but bad luck had them parked downwind,” after a wind shift.
“So sad for our guys as they were dialed,” Councell said.
MMA’s poor finish in the McMillan means the Mariners “probably won’t qualify” for the Kennedy Cup, a big intersectional offshore boat regatta scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 4 at Navy.
“Competition is on the rise which means more schools from more conferences are interested,” Councell said.
MMA is a member of the New England Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (NEISA) which gets only one berth for the Kennedy. That will go to Massachusetts Maritime Academy this year.
“They got a fluke breeze and finished third in the one race this past weekend,” Councell said.