CASTINE — Sailboat racing often provides empirical evidence of the truth of the Book of Luke’s warning that the last will be first and the first will be last.
And so it came to pass last weekend that the Mariners of Maine Maritime Academy finished at the very bottom of the 10-boat fleet in the 11th annual Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup regatta, an event that MMA won in each of its first two years a decade ago.
With the academy yet to hire a replacement for sailing coach Caroline Councell, who left Castine last fall, virtually no time to practice on the water and a crew of eight with little offshore racing experience, the Mariners finished more than 50 points behind the winning U.S. Naval Academy team. Navy has never finished last in the regatta, but stood seventh of eight teams when MMA won the 2009 regatta.
The victorious Midshipmen finished well ahead of second place UC Santa Barbara. The Cougars of Charleston College, last year’s winner, finished fifth behind the Keelhaulers of California Maritime Academy, the regatta host and winner of five consecutive Harbor Cups between 2011 and 2015.
The regatta encompassed 10 races sailed in identical Catalina 37 sloops over three days.
It rained and it was cold in sunny Southern California on Friday, but the fleet sailed three races in steady southwesterly breezes with bullets going to three different teams: Cork Institute of Technology from Ireland; the University of South Florida; and the University of California Santa Barbara. At the end of the day, UCSB stood first with Navy three points behind them in second place.
Navy pretty much locked up the trophy on Saturday, notching three bullets, a fourth and a sixth, in five races sailed in foggy, drizzly conditions that tested both the talent and tenacity of the competing crews.
On Saturday, the cloudy Southern California skies finally cleared, the sun broke through and the College of Charleston Cougars, last year’s winner, led the fleet around the course in light southerly breezes for their first win of the regatta.
The Middies, though, sealed this year’s victory with a second-place finish in the first of the final day’s two races. It was their first Harbor Cup win in 11 tries.
“We’ve been here since the beginning and it’s the first time Navy has won it,” skipper Teddy Papenthien said in a statement. “It’s just awesome for the program.”
As of late last month, according to Jennifer DeJoy, MMA’s director of college relations, the academy was “making progress” in its search for a new coach to lead the academy’s sailing programs.
The Harbor Cup was founded in 2008 by the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Yacht Club and invites top-level college sailors to compete for a perpetual trophy established “to encourage young men and women to enjoy the benefits of big-boat, offshore competitive sailing.”
Co-ed teams race aboard a fleet of matched Catalina 37 foot sailboats, maintained to identical standards by the Long Beach Sailing Foundation, to promote the fairest possible racing.