Teams from 19 high schools and community sailing programs throughout northern New England crossed the starting line during the Downeast Regatta in Castine over Mother’s Day weekend. The event was won by the Belmont Hill School with Islesboro Central School winning the Maine state championship. ELLSWORTH AMERICAN PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Strong showings for locals at Downeast Regatta

CASTINE — It was a good weekend for Massachusetts high school sailors at the 21st annual Downeast Invitational Regatta hosted by Maine Maritime Academy in Castine Harbor, but Maine sailors had plenty to cheer about as well.

After 18 races sailed over two days, the Belmont Hill School from Belmont, Mass., placed first in the 19-team fleet and took home the Jim Modisette Memorial Downeast Regatta Trophy, beating the Marblehead (Mass.) high school team by a solid 36 points.

Islesboro Central School placed third overall and, as the highest placing Maine team, won the perpetual Griff Fenton Maine Schools Sailing Association Championship Trophy, but it wasn’t easy.

Islesboro Central took home the trophy this year, but was tied for points with the Trojans of Mount Desert Island High School and won a tiebreaker by having one more first-place finish over the course of the two-day event.

The Maine championship trophy is named for longtime MDIHS sailing coach Griff Fenton.

This year’s DER was really a tale of two weather systems.

Saturday was blustery, with north northwest winds sometimes gusting above 20 knots, delaying a few starts and producing more than a few capsizes. Big breeze notwithstanding, the race committee was able to run 10 exciting races, six in Division A and four in Division B.

Conditions on Sunday were lighter, Maine Maritime Academy sailing coach Taylor Martin said, with winds mostly blowing at 6 to 8 knots but “shifting and building throughout the day.” The weather was cooperative enough to allow eight races — 18 in all over the two days.

The Belmont Hill team dominated the event, winning six of nine Division A races and three of nine in Division B. Marblehead made it close in Division B, finishing just three points behind Belmont Hill and taking two bullets.

MDI sailed better the heavier the weather, it seemed, with the Division B crew taking a bullet in the first race on Saturday and the A boat finishing near the top of the fleet in building winds on Sunday.

“I was pleased to see the wind pick up later in the day,” MDI sailing coach John McCauley said on Monday. “We are a heavy team and prefer a bit more wind.”

George Stevens Academy, which sponsors the regatta in cooperation with MMA, had a tougher time than its cross-county rivals. With a relatively inexperienced team, the Eagles finished 14th overall, though the Division A boat, with Silas Murnik skipper and Katy Forrest as crew, was near the top half of the fleet.

“Saturday’s conditions tested all the competitors and I was proud of the way the GSA sailors responded to the heavy weather,” Eagles sailing coach Andy Stephenson said Monday. “I was particularly proud of Ryan Mitchell and Clementine Bannon, who capsized in the first round of B races and spent a fair amount of time in the water, but raced again without hesitation when their rotation came around again.”

This year’s regatta drew 14 Maine teams and five out-of-state teams from as far away as Portsmouth, N.H., and the Boston area to the south and Burlington, Vt., to the north.

In all, this year’s Downeast was “a successful regatta with 18 races total, 9 per division,” Martin said Monday. “It was exciting to see so many Maine schools represented, and great to see so many female skippers sailing as well.”

“MMA and GSA did a great job running the event as always,” McCauley said in an email Monday. “Congratulations to Islesboro!”

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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