Sailors battled East River weather at regatta
Great Mills, Leonardtown sailing teams place in New York event
Sailing in the East River between New York City and the Long Island Sound on a day with winds blowing as fast as 25 miles-per-hour, may not have been ideal conditions for the Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association’s sailing regatta’s championship team.
But that’s what Leonardtown and Great Mills, two varsity MASSA championship teams, endured when they traveled up to New York on Nov. 3 and 4 from Sailing Center Chesapeake Tall Timbers Marina to race at the SUNY Maritime College at Throggs Point.
Conditions got so bad on the first day that after all but one of Leonardtown’s boats capsized, MASSA was forced to cut the sailing short for the day. The next day, the weather flipped and with barely any wind for the sailors, they struggled to get their boats moving.
However, Southern Maryland sailors persevered as Great Mills finished 11th and Leonardtown was 12th.
“I felt like under different weather conditions we might have done better,” said Lucy Paskoff, a junior homeschooler who sailed for Great Mills. “But we were still fairly happy with it because it was the first time qualifying for something at this level of competition. One school from New Jersey was used to this kind of wind, but everybody was really in the same boat.”
Weather was an unexpected factor in racing on the first day, and not something that the Southern Maryland sailors could have prepared for.
“On the first day, on Saturday, there was wind to the mid- to high20s,” Paskoff said. “This is supposed to be the championship and these are experienced sailors. They said, ‘We are going to try sending them out in this.’ The type of sailing we were doing, it’s in very close quarters and is really hard to do when your moving super fast. I think they got off two races that day and it was just who could manage to not capsize won the race. One race with Leonardtown, all of the boats capsized except for one of Leonardtown boats that made it. Luckily, I didn’t capsize and you’re just zooming along. We were sailing in the East River. We sail on the Anacostia River, too.”
But with the first day’s races being cut short, MASSA wanted to get as many more races as the could on the second day.
“On the second day, because they knew people had to drive quite a bit to get there, they tried to end it early because there wasn’t time for all the races,” Paskoff said. “It was too windy, and then almost no wind with some pretty extreme current on the East River.
Great Mills head sailing coach Josh Morrison, who is a full-time student at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and coaches the junior varsity teams as well, was proud of how the sailors did.
“Our league qualifier was October 27 and we placed Great Mills and Leonardtown, third and fourth in the state of Maryland.” Morrison said. “Then that qualified them for the New York Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association, district level, which goes from the state of New York to the state of Virginia.”
Sailing at this level of competition is team racing and requires a lot of strategy, something that Morrison tried to plan out with his teams before the race. But he could not anticipate the weather.
“Team racing is one school at a time with three boats each, so it’s using a lot more strategy and tac- tics to have each team get the best finish overall,” he said. “The scoring works kind of the way a cross country race would, trying to get the lowest aggregate score overall, but you’re allowed to use the rules of the game to mess with each other.”
With heavy winds and a heavy current in the East River this time of year and plenty of other boats on the water, the Southern Maryland sailors struggled to stay upright.
“It was an interesting weekend, Morrison said. “On Saturday, it was windy, 20 to 25 miles per hour, so we ended up sending kids out for an hour in the beginning of the day and pulled everybody back in and canceled racing for Saturday. Sunday was the opposite with light winds and almost no wind. It was pretty challenging, a lot of our kids are small without a lot of weight, so keeping the boat up was kind of challenging. Only one of our boats was able to finish, so we lost that one by default.”
He added: “There were two kids in each boat, skipper and crew. Steering and working sails, when you are trying to balance that boat against the wind, we call it hiking, leaning way out toward the wind to count- er weight the boat, the wind. The other two boats couldn’t with the wind.”
Sailing is a growing sport in Southern Maryland amongst the high schools, and sailors like Paskoff and Morrison are working hard to make a name for the sport.
“Sailing is not a huge thing in St. Mary’s County,” Paskoff said. “[St. Mary’s Ryken] has a team, and Great Mills, Chopticon and Leonardtown have their own team. Patuxent just started and Sailing Center Chesapeake used to only have 20 sailors for all those schools. Now with JV and varsity we have over 45 sailors. It is growing down here, but not as much as Annapolis.”
She added: “I joined the team in eighth grade, so four years. There’s the Severn School in Annapolis that’s recognized as one of the best sailing schools on the east coast. They’re sailing from little kids size. I started in eighth grade and am now sailing competitively, you get what you put into it. If you really want to be good at it, you can.”
Paskoff hopes to go on and sail in college competitively, but for now she is proud of how far her team has come this season.
“Josh is great. He really puts his all into the team. He donates most of his time and really tries to make us better sailors. As of right now. I would love to sail in college and my senior year of high school.”
Great Mills and Leonardtown high school’s varsity Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association’s championship teams advanced to the MASSA Championship Team Sailing Regatta Nov. 3 and 4 at the SUNY Maritime College in New York City. Pictured, from left, are Braedon Myers, Dan Unangst, head coach Josh Morrison, Steven Twemlow, Julia Marino, Audrey Commerford, Olivia Sowa, Tyler Egeli, Hannah Carlsen, Lucy Paskoff, Emily Williams and Finn Hildebrandt.
The Leonardtown High School varsity Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association championship team advanced to the MASSA Championship Team Sailing Regatta Nov. 3 and 4 at the SUNY Maritime College in New York City and placed 12th.
The Great Mills High School varsity Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association championship team advanced to the MASSA Championship Team Sailing Regatta Nov. 3 and 4 at the SUNY Maritime College in New York City and placed 11th.