Scrapping in La Rochelle

By Kimball Livingston Posted October 19, 2014 – Lead photo by Icarus Sailing Media

Halfway through, the 2014 Student Yachting World Cup belonged to England to lose. Accounting for a discard race apiece, Ireland and Italy on Sunday edged the USA into fourth, and that is the group that appeared to be headed toward a battle for podium finishes.

[Editor’s note: BPT may not be able to update SYWC racing again until late in the regatta]

Racing continues at La Rochelle, France through Friday in a fleet of 12 matched keelboats. The breeze in early races was light to killing light so far. But that may change.

Representing the USA for the second time is the California Maritime Academy, qualified off its win at the Kennedy Cup in Annapolis. Before the team left for La Rochelle, I had some time with Cal Maritime skipper Dillon Lancaster, who recalled that he was—

“A freshman the first time Cal Maritime went to the World Cup. That team set the bar high for us, and we’ve been looking for a repeat since.”

In addition to the win at the Kennedy Cup, the Keelhaulers pulled of a four-peat last March at the Harbor Cup in Los Angeles, so something’s working.

“We had a strong crop of freshmen that came in together,” Lancaster said. “We’ve kept pretty much the same team together to the point that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we can read each other’s minds. This year, we won pretty much every keelboat event we went to.”

As a team, they also finished second at the Kennedy Cup in their sophomore and junior years, so barely missed making this journey before.

Golden GearBut Cal Maritime is unique in the California State University system, with only 1100 students and an engineering-centric curriculum that is much more experience-oriented than its sister schools. In job placement and early earnings statistics, it’s a clear winner, but experience-oriented has its issues too.

“We ship out on the Golden Bear—this isn’t a normal school—and it’s hard to keep a consistent practice schedule.”

Cal Maritime explains it this way: Each summer, cadets in their first and third years depart with licensed faculty officers for two months during the Annual Training Cruise. During these periods at sea, intellectual learning, applied technology, and leadership development blend daily as cadets apply what they have learned in the classroom, in the lab, in the Corps, and on the waterfront.

Offshore coach Parker Mitchell clearly has a successful workaround working, and I have a hunch the Keelhaulers results in La Rochelle right now would be better if the breeze were a bit more like home. Breezy. Offshore coach Parker Mitchell set the team up with a Mumm 30 for part of their practice. The deck layout is similar to what they would find in La Rochelle, and they had the team’s notes from the excursion to France four years ago.

Lancaster started his sailing at the age of seven at King Harbor, Redondo Beach, in Sabots. He ran into team tactician Scott Doyle at the same time, “And we’ve been on the water together since day one,” he says. “We did high school sailing against each other, the Governors Cup, everything.”

That tight team that started out together as freshmen (“We did go to a rugby player to get a mast man; we said, ‘Ryan, we need you.’ “) will be moving on, of course. Lancaster, in fact, is already graduated with a work history. “They let us sail in the World Cup because we were students when we qualified. I came back in September after three months of working on tugs north of the Arctic Circle. That’s when the offshore team really started cooking.”

For those into video, here is Day Two:

Yr humble reporter finds himself watching developments through Facebook, where the regatta reported on Sunday: “The day’s wind was so low that a break was taken after the first race. People could enjoy some bathing and diving. As the wind didn’t blow again, every one landed back and waited at the race village, playing cards, sunbathing, drinking fresh beers or eating crepes.

“Around 4’o clock all crews went back sailing for a second race. Not every crew in fact as the Japanese team missed the call and didn’t compete for that race. That’s a shame as they had done a really good first race. France sailed well today putting England in the shade.”

[I may have excised a few exclamation marks from that copy]

From a Keelhauler’s post we get, ” After hours of postponement on the water and on shore, they dropped the AP at 3:40 and back out we went. A nice breeze of about 5-6 knots was waiting. A general recall was called as the anxious fleet wanted to get racing. The breeze was dying and a huge right shift left us on the wrong side of everything. We fought back to 5th just behind Ireland and Italy (our closest competitors) but lost Scotland at the finish ( a shortened course at the second windward mark. Just halfway through the regatta and hoping to have a better second half. Oh, and England took yet another bullet.”

I’ll be off the farm for a couple of days, and the best I can do now is leave you with:

The outlook for Monday according to weather.com: Winds southwest 10-20. Chance of rain 100%.

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