Conditions for Saturday’s 33nm Cabrillo I Race around the Coronado Islands were about as bad as they could get. The forecast showed no wind. It was raining. It was cold. The course sailed into Mexican waters and without even stopping for a drink at Husong’s. However, for the sailors from the California State University Maritime Academy, it was one of the most anticipated days of their sailing careers.
It all started in November 2018, the Andrews 77, Ocean (originally Alchemy), was graciously donated by the Feracota family from Chicago. After being trucked to Marine Group Boatworks in National City, members of Dave Servias’s SD Boatworks and Wally Cross’s Infinity Yacht Services helped Cal Maritime begin a month-long re-assembly process. Measuring in at 86’ on the deck, with over 100’ of mast height, this boat serves as an ideal vehicle to propel the Cal Maritime Sailing Team from their successful Farr 40 campaign to an all-inclusive, competitive, cadet-run offshore sailing program.
With many of the fifteen members of the Cal Maritime Sailing Team having never sailed anything larger than a CFJ, the excitement was palpable. After some training with the masthead genoa, the team met to devise a race game plan. “Stay safe, but competitive” was the mantra of the day. With a bang of the starting gun, Team Captain, Johannes McElvain did just that, getting a first-place start, close to the top competitor Peligroso, a well-sailed Kernan 70. As both masthead genoas unfurled, a two hour drag race ensued.
Despite staying close, CMA’s luck and wind ran out, when Peligroso sailed into a nice puff one hundred yards to windward, as CMA reciprocally sank into a windless hole, putting them a mile behind. As CMA drifted, with slower competitors passing, things looked bleak. The cadets of CMA weren’t going to let this be the end of their race.
Through determination, savvy tactics and great boat-handling, CMA was poised to pounce on the competition as another lull consumed the fleet that had passed. With a perfect spinnaker douse, CMA entered the pass between the two Coronado Islands bow-to-bow with leading competitors, Peligroso and Blue Blazes, having regained miles of deficit.
By tacking onto a favorable wind shift after passing the island, CMA leapt forward from the becalmed fleet behind. The race to the finish was on. Unfortunately, a broken luff torsion cable on their masthead genoa rendered it out of service for the ideal reach back to Point Loma. It was only a matter of time until Peligroso would pass, with their brand-new masthead genoa. As Peligroso regained the lead, the coaches and cadets became anxious and looked at other ways to regain their lead.
With lightening wind and the A1 spinnaker being the only usable masthead light-air sail in the inventory, they took the gamble to change from the jib to their Stars and Stripes themed spinnaker. While the larger sail gave the team more power, it took them twenty degrees below the finish waypoint when first launched. As the breeze lightened, it lifted as they had hoped. First five, then ten, then fifteen degrees. In the final hour, the helmsman and trimmer worked in perfect unison, causing CMA to peek out beyond the favored Peligroso in a high-tension turtle race to the finish. One mistake by CMA would have cost them their hard-fought lead.
After over six hours of racing and several lead changes, CMA crossed the finish line 45 seconds ahead of Peligroso. The cadets high-fived and cheered, as they had captured line honors and second place overall in their first race on the new boat.
So, what’s next? The team will continue to sail in the Cabrillo Island Series and several training events to hone their skills. As part of the program, the intent is to provide mentors in the industry to help the cadets fully lead and operate the program. The team hopes to be lucky enough to surf through the Molokai Channel in the 50th Transpac. It will be a long road to get to the starting line, and we cannot do it without you! Contribute to the team and help young maritime leaders seize an incredible opportunity. Every donation made by clicking the link below is FULLY TAX DEDUCTABLE and goes directly to purchasing things like lifejackets, liferafts, sails, and sailing gear for the students. Any help is appreciated to make this dream a reality!
Director of Marine Development
California Maritime Academy