N.K. sailing – equipped with 10 islanders – defeats Dartmouth
“They sailed well,” said coach Mike Marshall.
The races went off under sunny, blue skies. According to Roy Tangen, assistant coach for Dartmouth, the wind turned breezier than normal. “But it’s certainly within the kids’ capabilities,” he said.
North Kingstown led the meet through the first two races. The Skippers won the first two races handily, but Dartmouth rallied and won the next two.
“Time to close,” the Skippers’ coaches could be heard shouting just before the fifth race was underway.
Islander Amina Brown, 16, a junior, steered one of the pair of North Kingstown boats that led all the way in the first two races.
Amina said 10 islanders have made this year’s sailing team, including Emma Vogel, Rachel Bryer, Mason Kelly, Fiona Christie, Ryan Geib, Molly Sylvia, Hali Chesher, Hailey Cassidy and Islay Petrie.
The Skippers have in all about 26 on the roster. Emma, 16 and a sophomore, did not race Tuesday. She was recovering from a cold, but she had a good vantage point to observe the action.
“I was on the coaches’ boat watching,” she said. “We won because in the first two races we sailed confidently. And then the next two, which we lost, we made mistakes. By the last race, we fixed those mistakes.”
Amina said the conditions favored the Skippers in the first two races. “We each have a side of the course, and my side was favored for the first few races.”
Amina said that North Kingstown had better positioning and better starts in the first couple of races. Amina went on to explain that the two teams battled for the starting position, and the Skippers won the bout in the early going.
“You know where you want to start, and you try to get over there,” she said. “You need to fight for your spot.”
Strategy seemed to be the deciding factor on Tuesday.
Amina added that in order to win, teams have to keep boats in winning combinations. Sometimes this means using one boat to slow down the opponent and allow a teammate to get ahead.
Tangen agreed with Amina’s assessment. “Team racing is a lot more about tactics than about sailing fast,” he said. As for home advantage, the Dartmouth coach didn’t believe it played a part in the North Kingstown victory.
Tuesday’s meet was Dartmouth’s first this season. The Dartmouth and North Kingstown teams compete every year against each other. According to Tangen, both schools have strong sailing programs. He said that many of the high school sailors will go on to compete at Division-I colleges.
“It’s a great sport,” he said. “These kids have the opportunity to sail at a high level in college. It’s not like basketball or football where only a select few get to go on.”
Tangen said the battles between North Kingstown and Dartmouth High are pleasant.
“If there’s a rivalry, it’s a friendly one,” he said. “Both schools have competitive sailing programs. [They’re] among the best in the public schools.”
The public school background is the “crux” of it, North Kingstown’s coach said.
“We’re both out of public high schools in a world where sailing is such an expensive sport,” Marshall said, “and the private schools have a larger budget for it. But we get by. We’re 4-3, and we fight to win regattas.”
With Tuesday’s win, the Skippers rebounded from three straight losses Sunday at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass. – all the defeats coming during one event.
“It was April Fools’ Day, but it was not a joke,” Marshall said. “We were swept.”
The Skippers lost against Tabor Academy, Hotchkiss and Falmouth.
But despite the tough day Sunday, Marshall, who is a Jamestowner, is optimistic about this team’s chances.
“I have high hopes for them,” he said. “They’re a young team and they have a long road, but they’ve come a long way.” He says their sailing mistakes are small issues that can be easily corrected.
The important thing is, he said, is that they’re motivated. “They’re a good group. They work hard. I see it working out well.”
Marshall said the core of the team is a group of juniors, and it’s “definitely dominated by Jamestowners.” That happened because a group of friends went through the Conanicut Yacht Club summer program and then decided to go out for the high school sailing team. When they graduate, though, the island domination will probably fade.
“It goes in waves,” he said. The islanders are on both the first and second teams.
Mason Kelly, 15, was practicing on Tuesday but also watched a little of the race. He and Jake Pellegrino, of North Kingstown, also 15, thought the Skippers had gotten better starts and were more successful because they had used roll tacks to take advantage of the wind.
Mason learned the sport at Sail Newport when he was just 5 years old. Jake started even younger, at 2 years old. His family owns a boat.
“I’ve always loved the water,” he said.