CASTINE — Last March, the Maine Maritime Academy sailing team sent a crew to the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Club Trophy regatta. Despite having virtually no practice time, the hardy Mariners stunned their West Coast competition by winning the POLA trophy.
Fast forward to 2009. MMA coach Tom Brown first got some his sailors out on the water last Monday. By Thursday, though, the team went west for the POLA. Among the competition were teams from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Naval academies, California Maritime Academy, USC and UCLA.
With junior skipper Matt Bourque at the helm of the Catalina 37 sloops and tactician T.J. Scott calling the shots, the Mariners came out of the gate to win the first race of the eight-race, two-day event. Then the Mariners pulled off two more firsts, a second and a third to finish with 23 points and convincing win in the seven-team fleet and their second consecutive POLA Cup trophy.
Besides Bourque and Scott, two other Mariners, John Kovach and Lester Closson, were sailing their second POLA regatta. The other two sailors in the boat were both freshmen.
Four races were sailed on both Saturday and Sunday. MMA won the first and fourth races on the first day, then won again in the opener on Sunday. The second race was the team’s worst race each day — a sixth and a fifth.
There was good news for Mariner fans from the East Coast, too. MMA sent two crews to Newport, R.I., to race 420 dinghies for the Wood trophy at Salve Regina University. Despite having just a single practice day on the water before leaving for Rhode Island, the Mariners finished fifth in a 16-team fleet.
The 420 crews mixed experience and youth. In Division A, first-year skipper Chris Poole drove his boat to fifth overall, including one first-place finish in 13 races. Senior Lori Berggren sailed as his crew.
Although the team still lacks the consistency it needs to compete against teams from bigger schools, the Mariners have some advantages.
“The team is hungry. It really wants to do well.” Brown said.
This weekend, the dinghy team is scheduled to head for Cambridge, Mass., to race in the first Central Series regatta of the season, hosted by Harvard. Another group will return to Salve Regina to race in the Veitor Trophy regatta.