Downeast Invitational fills Smith Cove with young sailors Gusting rain ends racing early on Sunday

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Hattie Slayton steers for the finish in racing on May 13. Photo by Anne Berleant

Castine—Twenty teams from high schools as near as George Stevens Academy and as far as Marblehead, Mass., raced in the 19th annual Downeast Invitational Regatta, a two-day event held in Smith Cove and hosted by the GSA varsity sailing team and Maine Maritime Academy, on Saturday, May 13 and Sunday, May 14.

With a grim forecast in hand for Sunday afternoon, the racing committee, chaired by MMA Sailing Coach Caroline McNally, fit eight races in each of two divisions on Saturday, and then completed two more on Sunday morning before the temperature dropped, the rain began in earnest and the wind picked up.

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Sailors line up for a race’s start in the Downeast Invitational Regatta on May 13. Photo by Anne Berleant

Those two races decided the overall winner, Tabor Academy, and the Maine State Championship—won by Camden Hills over Mount Desert Island after a head-to-head tie break. GSA’s unseasoned team finished 15th overall, with its A team, of sophomores Captain Hattie Slayton and crew Katie Forrest, ranked 11th and the B team, captained by freshman Silas Murnick with sophomore crew Tess Williamson, in 14th. Murnick also crewed for the A boat’s first two races on Saturday before Forrest took over.

“Considering that none of the crews have had small boat experience, not to mention racing experience, and that our skippers haven’t had that much racing experience against seasoned sailors, we didn’t do badly,” Coach Bill Neufeld said. “We were able to field a team and stay in the race.”

Or, as Assistant Coach Andy Stephenson noted from the committee boat, “We’re a middle-of-the-fleet kind of team.”

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Tess Williamson, left, and Silas Murnick maneuver in a ‘B’ division race on May 13. Photo by Anne Berleant

Saturday’s racing featured an easterly wind holding steady at 10 knots with a shift to the south later in the afternoon, clear, sunny skies, and lead changes throughout the day, several contested finishes, and one 420 dinghy colliding with the committee boat, captained by MMA Waterfront Director Dana Willis.

Slayton started off with an 8th place finish in the first race but could not improve on that with the exception of a third in the sixth A race. In the B boat, Murnick, with some last-minute coaching from Neufeld, nabbed a second-place finish in Sunday’s final race.

By the last race, of the six teams vying for the Maine State Championship, two were essentially tied and two others not far behind, Neufeld said. The event finished at the MMA waterfront, with the awarding of trophies. Camden Hills now has bragging rights as one-year owners of the Modisette Trophy, given to the Maine State Championship and named after race founder and part-time Penobscot resident Jim Modisette.

George Stevens’ season ends after the Welles Cup race against the Mount Desert Island team, and the Great Harbor Invitational in Southwest Harbor.

SportsCP; Downeast; regatta; fleet; 051817; sailing

The fleet of 420s race towards their second mark. Photo by Anne Berleant

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