ANNAPOLIS, MD Ten teams arrived at the Naval Academy for the 2016 ICSA Big Boat East Coast Championship for the McMillan Cup. Coast Guard, Mass Maritime, Maine Maritime, University of Rhode Island, Roger Williams, Kings Point, NY Maritime, Army, Queen's and Navy rounded out a competitive two-district field. The McMillan Cup is contested aboard the Navy 44 One-Design with a crew of eight.
Sailing for the Bears were, Skipper Riely Brande '18, Tactics Will Colomb '18, Mainsheet Trimmer Andrew Goetz '18, Jib Trimmer Zachary Groce '18, Spinnaker Trimmer Erin Wright '18, Pitperson Will Gigantelli '18, Mastman Jonathan Cardinal, and Bowman Peter Reeve '16.
This season the McMillan Cup also served as the New England and Mid Atlantic qualifiers for the ICSA National Big Boat Championships for the Kennedy Cup. Only the top 2 teams from each district would be guaranteed postseason berths.
Saturday dawned bright with extreme wind conditions present on the Severn River and adjacent Chesapeake Bay. Race Officials stressed safety and good seamanship during the competitors meeting as the building shook from the 20 to 35 kt. northwesterly winds. Reefed mains, #3 Jibs and no spinnakers were the call of the day. Only a brief practice session was completed prior to the race committee making the prudent decision to abandon all sailing for the day. The McMillan Cup would be decided in a three race series on Sunday.
With the breeze more westerly and down into the 15 to 25 kt. bracket, the teams departed Santee Basin for the five mile transit out to the racecourse knowing their seasons were on the line. After a suspect first start and weather leg the Offshore Bears rounded mark 1 trailing the field. "After the spinnaker went up in race one, that's we started to settle down" commented mainsheet trimmer and practice team skipper Andrew Goetz '18.
The Bears made the most of their boat handling prowess honed from the thousands of miles they've sailed together since joining the team. "Our team could just out maneuver everyone downwind", said tactician Will Colomb '18. Coast Guard first passed through to leeward of a boat with a delayed spin set, then past another by sailing lower and faster, and then catching two more by jibing on the inside of a shift just before the leeward gate. The team completed the second leg of the four leg course in 6th place and would go on to pass another two teams before the line to finish 4th.
The team would post an equally impressive 2nd place finish in race 2 with Navy only fifteen seconds ahead. The last race wasn't going to be easy with several teams taking chances to move up the standings.
After an aggressive move and protest by NY Maritime, the Bears were forced to tack out shortly after the start and defend 3rd place as Navy and Mass Maritime went ahead for the win. The conservative strategy of staying with a majority of the fleet benefited the Bears as they crossed the finish line in 3rd with NY Maritime, Army, Queen's and Kings Point all overlapped just astern. Race Officials would later clear Coast Guard of any foul.
Navy wins the McMillan Cup, but Coast Guard continues to impress the fleet with a dramatic improvement from their 2015 campaign. With their third runner-up finish of the season, Coast Guard will compete in the 2016 ICSA Big Boat National Championship for the Kennedy Cup as the #1 seed from the New England District.