California Maritime Academy Wins the Harbor Cup
It took a leap of faith to launch the Harbor Cup in 2008, a leap—and a good landing. Ten college teams endorsed the concept by showing up for Harbor Cup 2020, March 6-8. Each team was a story in itself, ups and down were the norm, and each day had a new leaderboard. Our regatta partner Cal Maritime came through for a seventh time to win the Cup, but on day one they had to share top billing with UC Santa Barbara, one point ahead of defending champion College of Charleston.
Fast forward to day two, and the defenders were on a roll. After four consecutive pin-end starts, College of Charleston topped the fleet, and skipper Jordan Wiggins responded to a reporter's query about his starting tactics on those pin-end starts: "Well, actually, I'm not very good at starting any other way—
but don’t print that before Monday." Not so far away, Cal Maritime tactician Ryan Schack was speculating, tongue in cheek, "We figured they were down there because that's where the photo boat was."
It was that kind of weekend. All-in seriousness on the water. All-in camaraderie ashore, with a rib poking here and there.
Someone said, Rain, rain, go away, and a threatened rain front went away in favor of Chamber of Commerce weather. Among four teams from Northeastern climes, the ahhhs were audible. Sometimes the breeze was single digits; sometimes it went to low teens. The final day was the lightest day, when the first race went off in a southerly which, praise be, ran to completion before the shift to the west, and the fleet was home at the dock almost at 2 pm.
A pair of third-place finishes sealed the deal for CMA, with College of Charleston struggling in the light stuff, and Cal Maritime found a TV camera and more waiting at the dock. Our no-entry-fee partnership with the Port of Los Angeles was high-fived again. Cal Maritime skipper Brown allowed, "The first two days were long days. We worked to keep ourselves motivated because we hadn't had any time together as a full crew. We sailed a J/105 in some events on San Francisco Bay, but that was minus people because the boats are different mechanically—asymmetric spinnakers on the J/105 versus symmetrical here. The weekend ultimately was about consistency, not race wins."
Bowman Kyle Collins remarked, "We had communications issues early on, but once we settled that, the boat started working."
Brown is a product of the San Diego Yacht Club junior program, while his bow, Kyle Collins, is a fourth-generation San Pedro boy with two Transpacs behind him in his freshman year at Cal Maritime. Contrast that to the Penn State crew that arrived with no one (let's emphasize, no one) who had ever set, much less gybed, a symmetrical spinnaker before and almost no one who had ever set foot on a keelboat. Yes, they were slow. Early on, they might finish a full leg behind, and they spent a lot of time under white sails downwind. But race by race they got closer to the ninth-place boat, and they crossed every finish line cheering themselves, growing by leaps and bounds and . . .
Penn State won the spirit award and was applauded as loudly as CMA because they won their own race. Self-coached, they bubbled over with gratitude for the invitation and the opportunity just to participate. Here is an amalgam of their voices: "Team spirit is rooted in our school…We're one big cult…We're a landlocked school; we barely get to sail dinghies…Once this regatta is done, no one will remember who finished second, but they'll remember who finished last, every race…Everyone here is so helpful, and we are so lucky…We're in L.A.!"
At least four of our ten teams had women at the helm all or part of the time, and the actual count is probably higher. Sampling our way through the weekend, we have a look at a focused College of Charleston crew winning the start of race one en route to leading all the way . . .