by Rich Roberts
Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup 2011 - No pressure, no brooding about last year, no doubts about the skipper's injured foot … the California Maritime Academy Keelhaulers from Vallejo were just a successful bunch of Sunday sailors as they won the fourth annual Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup/Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta.
Cal Maritime skipper John Gray and coach Charlie Arms with Port of L.A. Harbor Cup - Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup 2011
'I got used to it pretty easily,' John Gray said of the right heel he injured the night before the three-day regatta. 'I just didn't carry as many things to the boat in the mornings. We just sailed every race as a team.'
And they did sail every race, all 10 of them, even though their lead over the second-place U.S. Naval Academy was so wide---14 points---that they almost could have stayed at the dock and won.
Almost, but not quite. Navy, led by Emily Frost, the only female skipper in the fleet, pushed hard for second and third places Sunday that if Cal Maritime had swallowed 20 points for not racing at all the last day the Midshipman would have beaten them by a point.
As it was, Cal Maritime's margin was 22 to 34, with upstart longshot Cal State Channel Islands from Camarillo in third place with 39, ahead of first-time participant Hawaii and defending champion USC at 41 and 45.
The Keelhaulers still could have gone home early after clinching the title with a third in Race 9 but they stayed on to log a well-sailed fourth for the day.
'It seemed like the right thing to do,' Gray said.
Coach Charlie Arms, who followed the racing in a tiny chase boat, said the seniors like Gray wanted to make the most of their sailing before they graduate into the maritime industry.
'You don't go to a maritime school to sail [sailboats] the rest of your life,' she said.
Instead, Cal Maritime buried the disappointment of last year when one bad race on the last day opened the door for USC's win. They won four of the races with no finish worse than fourth---and if it's any comfort to Navy, the Middies' DNF (did not finish) 10 points for a premature start in the first race of the regatta was not the difference; they would have still been in second place a point behind Cal Maritime had they won that race.
Cal Maritime's strategy for the last day was simple: don't blow it. Its third and fourth places were built on cautious starts, solid tactics and faster sailing. With the last day's races extended from two laps to three, they had plenty of room and a moderate and steady westerly breeze of 6-8 knots was enough to make it work.
In the first race they moved their way up patiently from eighth place to third over three laps and stayed out of everybody else's way even when they appeared to have passing opportunities.
Just behind CS Channel Islands, the University of Hawaii was a bit of a surprise in fourth place. The newcomers lost their coach to a broken leg shortly before the regatta and regular crew member Zach Hester was handed the job. With two eighth places and two sixths but a fourth, two seconds and wins in two of the last three races wrapped around an eighth, inconsistency was the biggest enemy.
They were second in the first race but then stumbled Saturday.
Hester said, 'We had two [early starts] and at one point we missed the course, then we were looking at first place but dropped to second. So we got a little mad and finally, finally got going … we got all fired up. We tried to race aggressively.'
After winning the last of six races Saturday, Hester said, 'We’re going in with more confidence now. [Sunday] we should be up there. If we had a VIP onboard it would be Fizz Foster. He calls the starts, calls the wind shifts … he’s the reason we’re here, because we have talent like him.'
Foster, the bowman, said, 'Zach stepped up to the plate.'
Foster is the son of Hawaii sailing rock star Fuzz Foster. His trophy was a split and bloody eyebrow.
'The jibes were mostly in control but the pole and I did not get along,' he said. 'After the trip it came down hard and hit me in my [sun] glasses.'
But he loved the experience.
'This is the first time we’ve come here [for the Harbor Cup],' he said. 'I like big boats a lot more [than dinghies], and to be able to sail big boats in college is sweet!'
The event is sponsored by the Port of L.A. The Los Angeles Yacht Club is the organizing authority and California Maritime Academy of Vallejo is the inviting school for the West Coast's only intercollegiate big boat regatta.
(10 races; no discards)
1. Cal Maritime, 1-4-2-1-1-1-5-2-3-4, 22 points.
2. Navy, DNS-1-3-3-2-4-1-5-2-3, 34.
3. Cal State Channel Islands, 7-2-4-7-4-3-2-4-4-2, 39.
4. Univ. of Hawaii, 2-3-6-2-6-8-4-1-8-1, 41.
5. USC, 5-6-1-6-3-2-6-9-106, 45.
6. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, 3-8-7-5-DNF-5-7-3-5-5, 57.
7. SUNY Maritime Academy, 4-5-5-8-8-5-9-8-8-7-7, 66.
8. Maine Maritime Academy, 8-7-8-4-7-7-5-6-6-9, 67.
9. UC Santa Cruz, 6-9-9-8-8-6-9-7-9-8, 80.