Mariners team of eight sail flawlessly toward victory

Maine Maritime Academy sailors take first place in Los Angeles race

Thu, 03/14/2024 - 3:15pm

The Maine Maritime Academy Offshore Sailing Team shined bright in California this past weekend, and beat rivals Navy and Coast Guard at the Port of LA Harbor Cup. They did so in decisive fashion on the final day of the prestigious event, said Team Coach Patrick DiLalla, of Rockland.

Going into the tenth and final race, the Mariners were one point behind the USC Trojans, and six points ahead of Navy; the rest of the fleet of elite competition was far out of reach of the three front runners, said DiLalla.
The racers were aboard 37-foot-foot Catalinas.
The Mariners team of eight sailors, led by Captain Nalu Ho, put forth a flawless effort that left no doubt who the best team was.  
“They dealt a blow to USC right at the start and took the upper hand immediately,” said Coach DiLalla. “As the race continued, they stretched their lead further and further. Their boat, a terrific machine firing on all cylinders, ran a quarter mile out in front of the fleet.  
“At the helm was Zach York; on the bow was Kyle Carse; Sarah Evans trimmed the Main; Ellis Braga, of Stockton Springs, trimmed the jib; Courtney King, of Appleton, managed the pit; Aidan Pepperd was the Mastman; and Drake Reid was the Floater.  
“Each member of the team performed in their role with relentless attention to detail, resulting in this impressive win at the highest level of college sport.”
Champions of the 2008 and 2009 regatta, the Mariners returned to the winner’s circle at the intercollegiate invitational event at Los Angeles Yacht Club.  
The POLA Harbor Cup was founded in 2008 to provide young men and women the opportunity to enjoy competitive offshore sailing, with a focus on Corinthian values, sportsmanship and ocean stewardship. It is hosted annually by the Port of Los Angeles, California State University Maritime Academy and LAYC, all which provide race management and hospitality.
The race began March 8, with steady breezes and moderate chop ideal for sailing the Catalina 37 fleet, according to a news release from L.A. Yacht Club.
Racing took place off Pt. Fermin, with rousing offshore sailing conditions. The College of Charleston team had a grasp on first place at the end of the day, with Navy and USC tight astern, the release said.
Idyllic conditions continued Saturday with a grueling five races in the building breeze, as Maine Maritime edged out the Cougars, joining the Midshipmen and Trojans at the top of the leaderboard. 
Racing on the final day of the three-day regatta commenced in a lighter breeze than the prior, giving the 10 teams a new challenge in the Catalina keelboats.
In the penultimate race, USC’s consistent performance saw them clinging to the top of the leaderboard by the slimmest margin, followed by Navy and Maine Maritime.
“Our first day was really just kind of jitters for us,” Maine Maritime tactician Nalu Ho said, in the news release. “It's been a while since we've been sailing and we just had some silly, goofy mistakes. But credit to our amazing team, they held strong, believed in each other, and loved each other through all that, and just kept positive.”
Everything fell into place the second day, he said, and by Day Three and the final three-lap race, it was a battle for the gold.
Maine Maritime Skipper Zach York said: “Starting the last race we had USC right above us, and wanted to pinch them off at the start: but weren't really able to. But going up that first beat we were able to slam dunk them in between two other boats and that really messed them up on that first windward leg.
“The tactician and team got us in the right position, at the right time, and we were able to extend above the layline, tack and crush the fleet. Our spinnaker trimmer did a great job telling me what he was feeling; we were all communicating really well. That was one really good takeaway from the regatta:  communication. That really helped us get from sixth to first.”
DiLalla, who has served as the Maine Maritime coach for just over a year,  commended his team: “The first day they did well enough to stay in the hunt, just feeling out the course; but by the second day they’d figured it out. The goal was to be ‘in it to win it’ on the final day and it came to a showdown between the three top teams today. I told them to just go for it, and they brought it home.”
On March 9, the crews were treated to a stirring presentation by sailing icon Roy P. Disney, “owner/grinder of Pyewacket,” as he described himself.
“I’m really honored to be here speaking to this group,” Disney said. “I've been where they are. I've seen the path that they may well be on. And I want to encourage that. Sailing is experiential, and the trap you run into is you can't get the experience without the job and you can't get the job without the experience.”
The advice he always gives: “Volunteer to do the worst job on the boat. First of all: you’ll get the job. Secondly, you can see the world play out in front of you. And you can then make judgments about what works and what doesn't, where you fit in, and where your skill sets are. And they’ll probably invite you back.

“I started out as a pit guy, and then a grinder. A lot of people don’t see that: they don’t see the work that it took me to go from here to there.”

He applauded LAYC and the POLA Harbor Cup for the opportunities it gives college sailors, noting, “You’ve got to start somewhere and this is a great place to start. Don’t play it down if you don’t do well. Take it. Learn from it. Grow from it.”

Maine Maritime 32
USC 39
US Navy 41
C of Charleston 47
Cal Maritime 53
Univ Hawaii 53
Cal Poly 62
US Merchant Marines 70