by Rich Roberts
The most talented collegiate big boat sailors in the United States are converging on the nation's premier shipping locale for the sixth Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta Friday through Sunday.
Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup 2012
It should be extraordinary. As the port continues to develop, the event also has grown so well that the problem is not attracting talented teams; it's picking ten competitors out of the many that apply . . . and then picking a winner.
While the Port of Los Angeles is the sponsor and Los Angeles Yacht Club the regatta organizer and host, the California Maritime Academy of Vallejo in northern California is not only the inviting school but the double defending champion, seeking its third consecutive victory in the West Coast's only intercollegiate big boat regatta.
Last year's win was a test of the Keelhaulers' resolve. They won four of the first five races over the first two days, then suffered a sail control breakdown in the sixth race and started the last day with a premature start in the first of three races Sunday. They fought their way back to finish fourth following each of those setbacks and win the regatta by six points.
Skipper Matthew Van Rensselaer, now a senior, said, 'We do a good job of keeping calm and staying in clear air. I was trying to keep as calm as I could.'
Other members of this year's crew are five juniors and one freshman. The Keelhaulers also have a new coach, Parker Mitchell, while Charlie Arms remains director of sailing for the academy.
Their strongest competition could come from the U.S. Naval Academy that returns with an entirely new seven-person crew but a recent record of winning the 2012 Kennedy Cup---intercollegiate sailing's big boat national championship---plus six first places in other East Coast events the past season and a fifth place in the World Cup at La Rochelle, France.
Arms said, 'This team hasn't sailed together as much, although we got second in the Kennedy Cup, and we've been practicing on our 39-foot boat. Navy, for sure, is going to be tough, as is USC.'
A sleeper could be the College of Charleston, S.C., whose collegiate success to date includes only dinghy class events but presents its 'first true offshore varsity team' from both coasts with veterans of the Transpacific Yacht Race, the Newport-Bermuda Race and other ocean events on board.
Harbor cup leader Channel Island - Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta
A local favorite, USC, the winner in 2010 and runnerup last year, still has veteran skipper Max Hutcheson at the helm but a rebuilt crew including two freshmen and three sophomores.
Other contestants are two-time winner Maine Maritime, SUNY Maritime of New York, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the University of Michigan and two California teams, UC Irvine and Cal State U. Channel Islands.
Most of the crews will include one or two women.
All will race Catalina 37s chartered from the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. Some of the teams have been practicing on the boats---best known for the Congressional Cup world-class match racing event---since last week.
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 on the open ocean west of the L.A. Harbor entrance, visible from Point Fermin Park.
Competitors have been advised to bring their foul-weather gear. The forecast calls for some rain showers and 58 degrees F. Friday, cloudy and 63 Saturday and sunny and 67 Sunday.
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.
Last year's final standings - (nine 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.