SAN PEDRO, Calif. – 10 March 2019 – The College of Charleston Cougars have triumphed at the 2019 Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup regatta, impressively pulling off podium finishes in nine of ten races over the three-day event. California State University Maritime Academy placed second; Ireland’s Cork Institute of Technology finished strong, with a notable third-place.
The Harbor Cup is an intercollegiate invitational regatta founded in 2008 to support and encourage young men and women to enjoy the benefits of competitive sailing. Hosted by Cal Maritime, the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Yacht Club, it provides teams from across the nation and overseas a unique opportunity to participate in one-design big boat offshore competition.
Today’s conditions proved an anticlimactic end to a thrilling event. Rocketing breeze had threatened Friday’s races. Given the limited sail inventory of the one-design Catalina 37s, races cannot be started at 20 knots or more, and are abandoned at 25. But PRO Tom Trujillo shifted the course to the alternate racing area inside the breakwater, where wind speeds teased the limits but sea state was tolerable. Sailors endured three races, with plenty of broaches and death rolls.
Saturday’s conditions were nearly as brisk, with a Force 4 westerly breeze fighting an opposing current, creating sloppy seas.
Conversely, light air at this morning’s appointed start time prompted an hour and a half postponement.
The clock was ticking for competitors still scrapping for second and third places. Cal Maritime’s DSQ in Race Five yesterday had dropped them to 28 points – putting Cork Institute of Technology, at 31, in striking distance. With SUNY Maritime College, US Naval Academy and University of California Santa Barbara just a few points astern, and two races scheduled for today, the leaderboard was in limbo.
Clawing their way up the scoreboard, College of Charleston had been nearly untouchable going into the final day of racing, with a 12-point lead over second place Cal Maritime. But a tactical error in Race Eight landed the Cougars an eighth place finish; which had the Keelhaulers – who finished second in that match – nipping at their heels, just six points astern.
“We’ve been practicing all season specifically to win this regatta,” skipper Will Hundahl pointed out. Fueled by that strength and confidence, and some solid teamwork, they shook it off and recovered, to get the bullet in the final race of the weekend and seal the deal. It’s the second Harbor Cup victory for the Cougars’ Offshore Sailing Team in the 12-year history of the event; their prior win was in 2016.
The Keelhaulers had had their own upset Saturday; but rebounded strong with top tier finishes in the final phase of the regatta. “We’re a close team; we’ve been sailing together for a while, and have great boat handling,” said skipper Johannes McElvain. Brushing yesterday’s issues aside, “the team was ready to go today,” – and proved it, finishing second.
2018 runner-up UCSB won Race Nine, but their rally was too late. They tied for fourth, with 2018 champions US Navy.
The US Coast Guard Bears never quite steadied their footing; despite that, the team enjoyed the regatta. “We’re glad to be here in California, sailing at the Harbor Cup again,” said skipper Eric Gimpel. “It’s a pretty inexperienced team we’ve got on board this season,” he admitted, adding early conditions were “a little bit heavier than we’ve been used to. And we just haven’t had that much time in the boats (Catalina 37) yet.”
Still, he was full of praise for the Harbor Cup regatta, echoing the rest of the participants. “It’s great to be able to come to a really impressive venue like Los Angeles Yacht Club, and race in such a competitive fleet. And everyone out here is so nice to us.” The Connecticut-based team was, “glad to be able to get out sailing whenever we can,” he added. “The weather is very nice, coming from 17 degrees!”
“It’s pretty cool when everyone likes your event, and has good things to say about it,” added Cal Maritime’s McElvain. “It also brings the pressure,” he laughed, “which makes it much more fun. We love it and are glad everyone else is excited about it.”
The Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup
The Harbor Cup was founded in 2008, “to support and encourage young men and women to enjoy the benefits of competitive sailing,” according to the Deed of Gift. Hosted by Cal Maritime, the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Yacht Club, it is unique in providing an opportunity to participate in one-design big boat offshore competition. Typically, college level sailing is held in small one- or two-person dinghies in protected waters; making the Harbor Cup a particularly coveted and distinguished event. Other aspects of the event focus on environmental awareness, stewardship, and developing a love of the ocean.
Teams of eight sailors, including at least two female crew, travel from across the nation and oceans to LAYC, where they receive a warm welcome, meals, accommodations and activities: including Saturday’s presentation by rock star navigator John Jourdane, who entertained the co-eds with footage and tales of some of his 350,000 miles at sea. Competitors also enjoy a spectacular racing venue off LA’s Point Fermin, and an illustrious racing platform: competing aboard the Long Beach Sailing Foundation fleet of Catalina 37s.
Los Angeles Yacht Club is located at 285 Whalers Walk in San Pedro, Calif. For further information visit www.layc.org Follow the Port of LA Harbor Cup on Facebook @LAYCHarborCup and @layc1901 on twitter.
COVER PHOTO CREDIT: BRONNY DANIELS/JOYSAILING