This year, the sailing clubs at Great Mills and Leonardtown high schools represented St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland well at the Mid-Atlantic Scholastic Sailing Association Fleet and Team championship regattas.
“Scholastic sailing has different disciplines, similar to track and field,” Great Mills head sailing coach Josh Morrison said. “The two different types of competition are fleet racing and team racing.”
Morrison noted the difference between the two different types of competition that Leonardtown and Great Mills sailing competed in.
“In fleet racing, every school at a regatta sends one boat, alternating between two sets of two sailors, onto the racecourse. Each team attempts to get the lowest cumulative score over the course of roughly 10 to 12 races in a regatta,” Morrison said. “Team racing is a step up. Teams compete one-on-one, with three two-man boats on each team battling each other. Good team racing is fast paced, might see many lead changes during a race, and is very exciting to watch.”
Sailing Center Chesapeake is the organization that the Great Mills and Leonardtown sailing teams operate under. The school system does not recognize sailing as an official sport and both teams are relegated to club status.
“This actually benefits us, because we choose our own coach and raise our own funds,” Leonardtown captain Julia Marino said. “This has resulted in our recent purchase of a fleet of 18 FJs from St. Mary’s College for the high school teams, six practice 420s, race lasers and 420s for our developing summer race team, which were not cheap purchases.”
The MASSA fleet and team championship regattas feature the best teams from Maryland, Virginia, New York, Washington, D.C. and New Jersey. This year, the Great Mills and Leonardtown club sailing teams qualified at the Maryland/D.C. Interscholastic Sailing Association Championships.
“Both our teams were able to show off the skills we have been building for three years or even more, for some of our top sailors,” Morrison said. “I’ve been really proud to watch how they have all grown and come to find their own special places within their team, whether first skipper or third crew. Each spot is essential to the operation of the team and everyone filled their position admirably.”
The MASSA Gold Fleet racing championship was held on Oct. 19 and 20 at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the MASSA Team Racing championship was held on Nov. 2 and 3 at Norfolk Yacht and Country Club in Norfolk, Virginia. Great Mills and Leonardtown represented Southern Maryland at the MASSA Team championship in New York City last year.
“The Leonardtown sailors played off the confidence they were able to build from the depth of talent in their large team,” Morrison said. “Our fleet racing and team racing squads varied in appearance, as we were able to sail the best choices for each discipline. This skills pool helped them finish seventh at both championships this season, establishing an all-time record for our program at SCC.”
Marino, who admitted to joining the sailing team based on the recommendation of a friend, noted it has been the best decision of her high school career.
“This season was the best in SCC history,” Marino said. “In order to be a successful sailor, one has to be intelligent enough to strategize on the spot based on a multitude of factors, have the integrity to police oneself for a mistake, or argue a case for oneself based on set racing rules. This combination of characteristics means I have a group of great people for friends and a sport I can continue for the rest of my life.”
Great Mills has a smaller roster than Leonardtown, but Morrison noted the club was still able to produce excellent results.
“With only seven sailors on the team this season, [Great Mills] was still able to put up a similar performance, even beating Leonardtown at some of our in-league events,” Morrison said. “They finished 16th and 11th at the fleet and team championships respectively, staying very competitive with the same teams as Leonardtown despite the difference in placing. To put these placings in context, it is worth noting that nearly 100 schools are registered in the Mid-Atlantic district.”
Great Mills senior captain Olivia Sowa has been sailing her entire life and joined the club when she was in eighth grade.
“I love sailing because it is both physically and mentally demanding. To win a race you have to both have both boat speed and tactics. Each race presents a new set of conditions which presents a new challenge,” Sowa said. “My hope for the future is that in the spring, which will be my last season, we will be able to maybe even qualify for nationals.”