CASTINE – The harbor that stretches from the Maine Maritime Academy waterfront out into Penobscot Bay, with the Brooksville shoreline beckoning, is training ground for the MMA dinghy sailing team.
The team competes in races and regattas throughout New England and beyond — in a normal season, that is.
In 2021, the spring sailing season was curtailed by the need for two summer training cruises on board the training ship State of Maine and a shortened semester that ends on April 9, coach Taylor Martin said. The previous fall and spring seasons were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[This] made it challenging for some programs to find opponents,” he said.
For the Mariners, that meant no competitive sailing since most of the team’s opponents are outside of Maine.
“Mariners Sailing was fortunate to be able to continue to sail, practice and scrimmage internally through the 2020-21 season, allowing our sailors the opportunity to improve,” Martin added.
As team captains for 202021, junior Olivia Mitchell of Bainbridge Island, Wash., and sophomore Natalie Samuels of San Ramon, Calif., led a team of 37 sailors throughout the school year of training.
“They’re both great leaders,” Martin said. “People look up to them in the locker room. They are able to take on a lot academically and have proven themselves over the last seasons to take on the challenge.” And while sailing prowess does not necessarily come into play when choosing captains, he added, “They’re both good sailors.”
After three seasons closed to competition, the team and Martin’s gazes are focused on the future.
“We are looking forward to the changes that the 2021-22 season brings, the chance to get back on the road to compete and getting an exciting incoming class up to speed,” Martin said.
In a normal year, the Mariners race between
20 and 30 regattas between dinghy sailors and the offshore “big-boat” team of sailors, culminating in the national qualifiers for coed and women’s fleet racing, and also team racing.