The High School Sailing Team is taking up residence once again on the MSA float at the mouth of Manchester Harbor after a one-year absence.
We rigged the boats at Tuck’s Point over the weekend and trailered them down to the beach by the Chowder House ready for the first day of the season, Monday March 22. We launched the 420s, the two-person dinghy used by most high schools and colleges, and engaged in a short warm-up, racing around in the “stadium” near the Rotunda. The wind was light for the first week of practice, which enabled an easy re-introduction to the boats and the conditions in the harbor. The only capsizes we encountered were intentional and part of the safety routine we run through at the beginning of every spring.
Like many sports teams, we have lost a year, and the past two years have depleted the ranks sharply, with five of our top sailors graduating and now sailing at colleges including Georgetown, Stanford, Brown, UVM, and College of Charlestown. We had a very successful year in 2019, winning many of our fleet racing and team racing events, doing well in state and regional meets, and finishing well enough to qualify for a national event at Annapolis, competing against the top teams east of the Mississippi.
COVID is still a major factor for competitive sailing, despite the natural distancing involved in sailboat racing. Large weekend events involving multiple teams are still not possible, and our schedule of meets is vastly reduced, with only six expected this year, as opposed to 23 in 2019. This may, in fact, be a blessing for us. Having few meets will allow us to focus on training up the newer members of the team, giving them the experience and confidence to compete at the highest levels. We can now focus on boat handling, boat speed, basic racing tactics, and later on the subtleties of the racing rules and team racing competition.
This year, the two Co-Captains, Lynn Benali and Anna Brzezinski, have committed themselves to passing on everything they know to the newer sailors, jumping into the boats and crewing for them, helping out on the dock as we rig and unrig, and contributing their observations as we go through the end-of-practice de-brief.
We have a majority of girls on the team this year, and this isn’t a bad thing. I have found over time that the girls concentrate harder on learning and applying that knowledge to the practices. They are just as competitive as the boys, if not more so. And finally, they are usually a bit lighter, which can make their boats just a bit faster.