Submitted by Sail Orcas.
Helena Auger, Emma Freedman, Millie Kau, and Maggie Toombs from the Orcas Island High School Sailing team travelled to San Diego to compete in the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association’s Annual Girls Invitational Regatta on Oct. 21-22.
Orcas emerged with a solid fifth place out of 21, managing to beat every team from outside the San Diego region plus a few local favorites.
“The hard work during the season really paid off. We’re so proud of this team,” said Coach Hannah Tuson-Turner.
The regatta, which is the only event of its kind in the country, was hosted at the San Diego Yacht Club. It drew 21 high school teams from as far away as Texas and Vermont. The competitors raced 14 foot long “FJ’s”, and each boat’s team consisted of four sailors – two skippers and two crew – that alternated races and rotated through San Diego’s boats to ensure fair competition.
The team was excited to travel to San Diego. The yacht club is well known in the region and is considered a hub for youth sailing, and the girls were treated to a set of eye opening experiences.
“The marina itself was huge — it was the most boats I had ever seen in one place in my life,” said Kau, a junior.
Said senior Maggie Toombs, “During the race, a naval carrier and a cruise ship sailed by. It was great to see how other yacht clubs operate.”
Conditions were completely different from any other race experienced by the Orcas team. Because of the quantity of teams, the regatta was relocated to an open sunny beach where teams would wade out in the sand to rotate in and out of their boats, and one portion of the course opened completely to the unprotected ocean.
Auger, a sophomore, was surprised by how warm it was compared to Orcas’ chilly waters while Kau could not believe how friendly all the competitors were.
“It was entirely a different feel from the co-ed nationals last spring,” she said.
Junior Emma Freedman thought it was “incredible” to be around “so many” talented sailors.
“I will never forget the friends we made or the experiences that we shared,” she said.
The Orcas team was warmly welcomed by the SDYC community, and they were housed in two wooden sailboats – one was a historic naval academy keelboat built in the 1940s.
Orcas experienced tough competition against a field of high level teams. Shifty conditions of six to eight knots with gusts up to 15 knots made for challenging conditions with several capsized competitors on the first day of 14 races. Toombs and Freedman said that at times, “when everyone else was in survival mode, we were in race mode.” In the 9th race, they came in 1st, capturing “a bullet.” On the second day, lighter morning winds filled in towards the afternoon and allowed 6 more races.
The team especially wants to thank OICF and the generous island donors who made this unique trip possible, The Vincent J. Coates Foundation, the Orcas LGBT Fund, and Kathy Wehle and Theresa Haynie.