by Rich Roberts
College sailing will take its annual leap from dinghies to the next level up next month with ten teams from across the nation racing brawny Catalina 37s in the sixth Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta March 8-10.
Harbor Cup 2012
The California Maritime Academy from Vallejo will be seeking its third consecutive victory in the West Coast's only intercollegiate big boat regatta. The Keelhaulers will be joined by the U.S. Naval Academy's winners of the 2012 Kennedy Cup---intercollegiate sailing's big boat national championship---plus two-time Harbor Cup winner Maine Maritime and 2010 winner USC, along with Cal State U. Channel Islands, SUNY Maritime of New York, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the University of Michigan, UC Irvine and a bold newcomer to the game, the College of Charleston, S.C.
All will race Catalina 37s chartered from the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. The Port of Los Angeles is the regatta sponsor, Los Angeles Yacht Club the organizing authority and Cal Maritime the inviting school.
A total of 10 races are scheduled over the three days, starting at 2 p.m. Friday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, conditions permitting. The race course will be west of the L.A. Harbor entrance, visible from Point Fermin Park.
John Craig, principal race officer for the America's Cup competition at San Francisco later this year, will be the featured speaker for a Saturday evening dinner at the club.
Charleston has one of the nation's top college sailing programs, ranking third in the country last year and placing second and fifth in the annual Rose Bowl Regatta at nearby Long Beach the last two years, but this will be different. That was sailing two-person CFJ dinghies; this will be on the heavily crewed Catalina 37s otherwise seen in the Congressional Cup and other ocean racing events.
Greg Fisher, sailing director for the College of Charleston, won the J/22 Worlds in 2008 but said, 'I was not much of a big boat sailor.'
Now he is working to expand the Cougars' sailing program for big boats because, Fisher says, 'it's an important part of the sport.
'So many sailors love the offshore races with a different type of technical skills required. The whole atmosphere is different. I see how important big boat sailing it to the sport in general.
'In dinghy college sailing there is unfortunately a size limitation. If you're too big it's hard to be competitive. A lot of our guys on our offshore team who are going out [to California] to sail the Harbor Cup are excellent sailors, but they're bigger guys and would have a hard time competing with the guys on our dinghy team.'
And they aren't all guys.
'We have a girl Hannah on the boat and she's psyched to be there,' Fisher said.
The skipper is Jay Greenfield, the team captain Luke Ackerman.
'The team is all fired up and working hard at it,' Fisher said. 'This has given us the segue to go to our athletic department and say, hey, this is an opportunity to develop a new part of our team and offer more sailing for kids to come to our college.'
Last year's final standings
(9 races; no discards)
1. Cal Maritime, 1-5-1-1-1-4-4-3-6, 26 points.
2. USC, 6-3-2-3-7-1-3-5-1, 31.
3. CSU Channel Islands, 2-1-3-2-8-5-5-7-3, 36.
4. SUNY Maritime, 5-2-9-6-4-2-6-4-2, 40.
5. U.S. Naval Academy, 4-8-7-5-2-8-1-1-5, 41.
6. Mass. Maritime, 7-4-5-4-5-3-8-2-RAF/10, 48.
7. Maine Maritime, 9-6-10-7-3-9-2-6-4, 56.
8. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 8-7-4-8-6-6-7-8-9, 63.
9. U. of Michigan, 3-9-6-10-10-7-9-9-7, 70.
10. UC Berkeley, 10-10-8-9-9-10-10-10-8, 84.