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St. Mary's places fourth at high school keelboat nationals

St. Mary’s has not been much of a factor on the local high school sailing scene for nearly a decade now.

Annapolis High and Severn School had become the dominant programs in Anne Arundel County while the likes of Archbishop Spalding, Broadneck and Key School enjoyed occasional success.

That is changing thanks to the current crop of sailors at St. Mary’s, which showed during the recently completed fall season that it is once again a player within the Maryland Interscholastic Sailing Association (MDISA) that encompasses all the schools in the county.

Skipper James Golden and tactician Trevor Davis led the way as St. Mary’s finished fourth at the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) Keelboat Invitational for the Mendelblatt Trophy, held last weekend off St. Petersburg, Florida.

Golden was the helmsman while Davis served as primary trimmer as the Saints posted top five results in eight of 10 races en route to a total score of 42 points, just one astern of third place Newport Harbor.

“It was somewhat bittersweet because we had such a great season and we wanted to close it out with a podium finish at nationals. Unfortunately, we came up just a little short,” Golden said. “On a positive note, all of what we accomplished this fall was a great steppingstone for the program and I think it’s going to carry over to the spring season.”

St. Mary’s won the MDISA Keelboat qualifier that attracted five schools then placed second out of eight entries at the Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association (MASSA) Championship. That latter result earned an automatic berth to the Mendelblatt Trophy competition, which is the de facto national championship for high school keelboat racing.

St. Mary’s was among 10 teams that advanced to the ISSA High School Keelboat Invitational, which was won by Corona del Mar in convincing fashion. Ranney High out of New Jersey, the MASSA champ, was runner-up.

This marked the inaugural appearance by the Saints at this particular event, which was first held in 2014. In addition to Golden and Davis, who are both juniors, the St. Mary’s crew included sophomores Will Cornell and Amelia Johnson, who handled the foredeck and pit, respectively.

St. Mary’s practices out of Annapolis Yacht Club under the direction of head coach Keenan Hilsinger, who sailed at the College of Charleston. The Saints were able to use one of the club-owned J/22 sloops for keelboat training.

“I’m very proud of the entire team, which came a long way this season,” said Hilsinger, who works full-time as a waterfront administrator at AYC and doubles as a junior instructor. “St. Mary’s took a major step forward by qualifying for keelboat nationals for the first time. It’s a very promising young team and I’m excited to see what these kids can achieve in the future.”

Golden and Davis serve as the A and B Division skippers for the St. Mary’s double-handed squad, which finished fourth at the Atlantic Coast Championship during the fall. Golden was the Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association champion in the single-handed competition for the Cressy Trophy.

“James and Trevor really stepped up and did a terrific job of leading the team,” Hilsinger said. “James is a very talented driver with a natural feel for the boat and a great knack for handling big wind and puffs. Trevor is very sharp and is instrumental with the boat setup, in addition to doing an outstanding job as trimmer.”

Golden said team chemistry was critical to the Saints’ success in the three keelboat competitions that were held this fall.

“We worked very well together as a team and everyone took a lot of pride in doing their jobs properly,” he said. “We spent a lot of time learning how to sail the J/22 and I thought that paid off in competition because our boat-handling was solid. We had the best sets, the best gybes and best upwind speed of any of the local schools.”

The ISSA High School Keelboat Invitational was held in J/70s provided by host St. Petersburg Yacht Club. Fortunately, Golden’s family owns a J/70 named Derecho and the team was able to use that for training.

Now St. Mary’s is hoping to make some noise locally, regionally and nationally during the spring when the ISSA Double-handed National Championship for the Mallory Trophy is contested during the spring season.

“Trevor and I have been encouraging good sailors to come to St. Mary’s and that is beginning to show results. We have 27 kids on the roster, which is a big number for a high school sailing team,” Golden said. “

KENNEDY CUP: Annapolis resident Kyle Comerford completed an impressive fall season by leading the State University of New York-Maritime to victory at the prestigious Kennedy Cup, considered the offshore national championship for intercollegiate sailing.

Comerford served as skipper and helmsman as SUNY-Maritime rallied from an early deficit to win the regatta with a low score of 15 points, two better than host Navy. The Privateers overcame an eighth place finish in Race 1 and a man overboard situation in Race 2 by winning the final three races of the regatta.

“As always, the key to victory was preparation. We really maximized our practice time on the water doing sets and douses, which is why our overall boat-handling was excellent,” Comerford said. “I would also credit the positive attitude among the crew, which is a requirement for any boat I’m skippering.”

Comerford, a 21-year-old senior, made history in his only season as a member of the SUNY-Maritime offshore sailing team. He joined William Hough (1983) as the only skippers to lead the school to championships in both the McMillan Cup and Kennedy Cup.

“We were confident coming off the McMillan Cup, but also knew we had a target on our back. Some people thought it was a fluke so we had to come back to Annapolis and prove it wasn’t,” said Comerford, who attended Annapolis High. “I’m very happy and proud that I was able to step up and perform for my team this season.”

A total of 10 schools qualified for the Kennedy Cup with competition being held aboard the Naval Academy’s fleet of 44-foot training vessels. The Mark II Navy 44s, designed by David Pedrick and built by Tillotson-Pearson, are somewhat similar to the J/44 that SUNY-Maritime utilizes for practice.

SUNY-Maritime was winning the race in which the man overboard incident occurred, which Comerford said was due to an equipment failure. Organizers agreed and gave the Privateers redress, a decision that ultimately proved decisive.

SUNY-Maritime entered Sunday’s action trailing Navy by three points and Coast Guard Academy by two. Only one race was held due to light winds and the Privateers crossed the finish line first to jump from third to first in the final standings.

“We found a magical puff and wound up getting around the entire fleet,” Comerford said.

PALM BEACH RACE: Former Gibson Island resident George Collins skippered Chessie Racing to a runner-up result in the annual Wirth M. Munroe Miami to Palm Beach Race, held Dec. 7.

Collins, racing with a crew that consisted of numerous Annapolis sailors, led the Tripp 62 to second place in PHRF class. Chessie Racing captured line honors among the five PHRF entries, but corrected to second behind Thin Ice – an Aerodyne 38 co-owned by Stuart Hebb and John Vincent of Newport, R.I.

John Torgerson served as strategist, Matt Beck called tactics and trimmed the main while Teddy Haaland and Tom Weaver teamed to trim the headsails aboard Chessie Racing. Veteran professional Greg Gendell was on the bow while Rod Jabin Jr. worked the mast.

Annapolis resident Ian Gordon is program manager and crew boss for Chessie Racing, which completed the 60-nautical mile race in 5 hours, 14 minutes and 58 seconds.

Competition was held in 10-15 knot winds from the east-northeast with the majority of the fleet sailing upwind into the Gulf Stream in order to pick up a favorable two knots of current. Beck said Chessie Racing was able to set itself up for a close reach back toward shore under asymmetrical spinnaker.

This event marked the triumphant return to competitive sailing for Torgerson, an intercollegiate All-American at Old Dominion University who mounted an Olympic campaign in Laser class.

Due to work and personal commitments, Torgerson had not competed on the water in any form or fashion since crewing for Peter McChesney in the Annapolis Yacht Club Fall Star Regatta in 2011.

“We had to get Torgy back on the water and George was extremely happy to have him on the boat,” Beck said.

2.4 METER RACING: Annapolis resident Dee Smith captured North American and national championships in consecutive regattas within the 2.4 Meter class.

A fleet of 20 boats representing the United States, Canada, Norway and the Virginia Islands gathered in Port Charlotte, Florida to kick off the 2019 CanAm Championship. Smith won three races and finished second in two others to claim the North American crown with a low score of seven points, five better than runner-up Bjornar Erikstad of Norway.

Next up was the United States national championship and Smith placed first or second in six of seven races in posting nine points – 12 clear of runner-up Bruce Millar of Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Canada.

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