The weekend of May 3-4, the Orcas Island High School Sailing Team traveled to Bainbridge Island, Wash. for the Northwest District Team Racing Championship for a chance to compete in the National High School Team Racing Championships in Minnetonka, Minn. Orcas was one of five teams vying for the District title.
Team racing is a type of round robin competition. Only two teams of three boats compete in each race. A complete rotation is accomplished when each team has competed against the others in “one-on-one” matches. The team with the best win-loss record wins the regatta.
As coach Burke Thomas predicted, the competition on Saturday was stiff and the results were very close. The sailors were not daunted by the constant rain or the 40 degree weather and the Orcas sailors were pleased with the almost 10 knot winds.
With skippers Sam Parish, Barrett North, and Jake White and crews Leah Bossler, Annika Thomas, Britany Wachter, Annalies Schuh and Carly Temple-Wareham, Orcas had proven skill and flexibility. They easily won their matches against Friday Harbor, Anacortes and Central Kitsap. North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island, however, presented problems. Orcas handed North Kitsap its only loss of the day, but fell to Bainbridge twice. At the end of Saturday’s competition, North Kitsap was in the lead; Bainbridge and Orcas were trailing by one and two points respectively.
On Sunday, the weather had changed dramatically; gone were the clouds, rain and cold temperatures, replaced with clear sky, sunshine, warm temperature and light and shifty winds. Orcas was planning on a change in the results as well. Their second race was against Bainbridge. Orcas trailed them by one point. It was close all the way, with the winning combination shifting sides repeatedly. On the final windward leg, Orcas maneuvered into a 1-3 position, beat Bainbridge, and now tied them for second place in the overall standings.
The next big race for Orcas was against North Kitsap. If Orcas could win, they would be one point ahead of Bainbridge and could possibly clinch second place in the regatta. They were racing a triangle course. After the first leg, two Orcas boats led the small fleet of six, a winning combination for Orcas. Just before the end of the second leg, a North Kitsap boat managed to get into a small maneuvering duel with an Orcas boat. A pair of North Kitsap boats split up Orcas’ winning combination. It all came down to the third, upwind leg of the course. But Orcas could not regain its lead and lost by a slim margin to North Kitsap. That loss, and some other Bainbridge wins, put Orcas and Bainbridge into a tie for second place.
“You guys were giving us fits,” said North Kitsap coach Matt Mikkelberg. “You had speed on everybody.”
In high school sailing earning the opportunity for the equivalent of “post-season play” boils down to two intense weekends, one for fleet racing and one for team racing. Teams throughout the district assemble on one body of water and pit their skills against each other during the day and eat and socialize in the evening. The winner of the weekend regatta goes on for one more weekend of racing. For all teams but one, the culmination is fast and furious. The winning team then travels hundreds of miles for the next competition, the National Championship.
“We would have loved to be the team traveling,” said coach Burke Thomas. “But we had a great season, and we’re looking forward to next year.”