Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Michigan Finishes in a Three Way Tie for the 2013 Kennedy Cup

This past weekend, nine Michigan sailors made the trip back to Annapolis, Maryland for one of college sailing’s most prestigious regattas, with the John F. Kennedy Memorial Cup on the line. The crew consisted of Alex Ramos ’15 (skipper), Will Cyr ’14 (main trim), Tanner DePriest ’14 (headsail trim), Connor Shope ’15 (trim), Braden Engstrom ’16 (trim), Kirsten Boelkins ’15 (pit), Jason Doyle ’14 (mast), and Chris Oliver ’14 (bow).  Max Odena ’16 came along as well as an alternate, serving as Michigan “Maritime’s” coach.

Naval Academy Sailing Pavilion
Ten schools sailed on the Naval Academy’s fleet of Navy 44 keelboats, 30,000lb, 44 foot monsters with symmetrical spinnakers and the infamous deck layout designed to make life difficult for midshipmen. The “winch farm” by the mast is a prime example, which gave Kirsten plenty of things to worry about on each maneuver. In short, the boats were about as far from typical college dinghies as can be.

The team took two vans to Annapolis on Thursday, with one group leaving much earlier than the other. After an easy 9 hour trip, everyone made it to the Ramos’s house by 1:30am. Dave and Karen Ramos again graciously hosted our team, for the 3rd time in 4 weeks. The team cannot thank them enough for their support.

Friday consisted of both a short practice session and racing, which is atypical of college regattas. The first race saw winds in the range of 22-26 knots, a brutal introduction to the Navy 44 for a crew that hadn’t sailed together prior to this weekend. However, a great start by Alex propelled us up the first leg in a great spot, and we finished 4th. The second race of the day saw breeze climb to gusts over 30knots, with the spray coming off the top of the waves violently. Another 4th in the nautical conditions left us feeling content with our performance Friday and looking forward to Saturday’s racing.

Saturday’s conditions were significantly more docile than the day before. For the first time in the regatta spinnakers were allowed, bringing into play a much larger required skill set for the teams. We took a 4th, a 4th, and a 3rd in the three races with breeze in the upper teens to mid-twenties. The final race of the day was one for the ages, as we were barely over the line early, and unluckily due to a flag raised by the race committee, were required to round the end of the pin to start the race. Catching a nice right shift and climbing back into the race with excellent kite work, we were back in 5th place after two legs. The fourth and final leg was described by the Mass. Maritime coach after the race as “the best sailing he’s seen at the event” (He had been coming to Kennedy Cup for 7 years). Needless to say, after the poor start, a 3rd place left us feeling very confident heading into the last day of racing.

Tied for second place with Cal Maritime, we went into Sunday’s racing with the ultimate goal of winning the regatta, a possibility we hadn’t really considered before the weekend. Typically, Michigan’s offshore team places respectfully mid-fleet, more than impressive given we’re a club program without time to practice on the boats. Sure enough, the first start sent us off course right, followed by one other boat. They shortly tacked over, leaving us off by ourselves and not sure whether the move would pay off. In true Michigan Maritime fashion, we rounded the top mark first by a mile, setting the kite and taking off downwind with a solid lead over the pack. However, a botched kite douse left us sitting in 8th place going back upwind. The team fought through the setback and ended up with a very respectable 4th place finish given the circumstances. Navy finished 1st, setting themselves up for a regatta win with a 5 point lead going into the last race of the weekend. However, with the last upwind leg of the last race deciding the regatta, Navy was in the back of the pack and Cal Maritime was nipping at our heels. The final 300 yards of the leg decided the regatta, with Cal narrowly crossing the line in 2nd before us, in 3rd. Navy finished 8th, opening the door for Cal Maritime to join the top of the standings as well.

7 races were sailed in total, leaving us with a point total of 26, along with both Navy and Cal Maritime. Cal Maritime took the tie-breaker and won the event, with Navy winning the tie-breaker for second. While disappointed we couldn’t close the deal and win the event, it was an extremely strong showing for Michigan Sailing and definitely cemented our spot in the national conversation. The win ended an incredible fall season for the offshore team, sailing three regattas and at least tying for first in every one of them. The team looks forward to next year’s Kennedy Cup and the chance to represent the United States in the Student Yachting World Cup.
-Jason Doyle '14