Senior skipper Gary Munsell led the way as the Navy varsity offshore sailing team captured the McMillan Cup last weekend off Annapolis.
Competition was held in heavy winds Saturday and Sunday on the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River with nine teams entered. Junior Joseph Zaladonis served as helmsman and classmate Madelyn Ploch was aboard as tactician, as Navy won four of five races in posting a low score of seven.
The score was half as much as runner-up Rhode Island, which was under the guidance of skipper Ryan Palardi. Merchant Marine Academy took third with Jack Stancil skippering.
This marks the sixth time since 2012 that Navy has secured the McMillan Cup, the oldest trophy in collegiate offshore sailing. Former president John F. Kennedy helped Harvard claim the McMillan Cup, while America’s Cup skippers Bus Mosbacher (Dartmouth) and Bob Bavier (Williams) were also winning skippers.
The McMillan Cup has been contested every year since 1930 and is always hosted by the Naval Academy. It currently serves as the dual Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association and New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association championship.
“Our team simply sailed more consistently than the competition,” Navy head coach Jahn Tihansky said. “They did a good job of avoiding trouble and minimizing mistakes. They quickly recognized whenever they were on the wrong side of the course or when boat setup was slowing them down.”
Navy’s fleet of Mark II 44-foot training vessels were used for the McMillan Cup. Each team sailed a different boat on Sunday than it did on Saturday. The Midshipmen train daily aboard the David Pedrick-designed and Tillotson-Pearson-built 44-footers regardless of conditions and their ability to execute sail changes and mark roundings in big breeze proved decisive.
“We had a pretty mature team from an experience standpoint. They’ve practiced in strong winds quite often and were ready,” Tihansky said. “Sailing these boats in those types of conditions is very challenging and I was proud of all the teams for displaying outstanding boat-handling.”
Munsell is actually the bowman for his crew and literally leads from the front. Tihansky described the California native as a strong team-builder and said he does a good job of “keeping everyone calm and focused.”
Tihansky calls Ploch the Midshipmen’s “secret weapon” as she is one of the few Navy varsity offshore sailing team members to have significant sailing experience before arriving in Annapolis. Ploch grew up sailing in her hometown of Stamford, Connecticut and is “very sharp and quick to recognize problems,” Tihansky said.
Senior Kelly White served as mainsail trimmer, while senior Teagan Foley and freshman Langston Goldenberg teamed to trim the headsails. Severna Park High graduate Lauren Breitenger and fellow senior Meade Tolen completed the crew.
On-water management was provided by members of the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron and they completed two races in southerly winds ranging from 17 to 22 knots on Saturday before a weather front moved in.
Teams were not allowed to use the No. 1 genoa on Saturday as four-foot waves made for rough seas during the four-legged, windward-leeward courses of 4.8 nautical miles. Massachusetts Maritime won the opening race with Navy placing third.
That would prove to be the worst result for the Midshipmen, who took advantage of a left-hand shift to lead wire-to-wire in Race 2. Blustery northwesterly winds that steadily built into the upper 20s made things tough on Sunday and the race committee did not allow spinnakers for the final three races.
McMillan Cup Results (nine teams)
1, Naval Academy, Gary Munsell, 3-1-1-1-1=7; 2, Rhode Island, Ryan Palardi, 6-2-2-2-2=14; 3, Merchant Marine Academy, Jack Stancil, 5-4-3-5-4=21