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Photo by Jim Powers

The J-122 Dolphin is passed by small sailboats from the Nantucket Yach Club as it approaches the dock at U.S. Coast Guard Station Brant Point last week.     IM Photo Galleries

 

By Dean Geddes

dgeddes@inkym.com

@DGeddesIM


(July 17, 2014)

Twenty-two
members of the U.S. Naval Academy’s varsity offshore sailing team
breezed into town last week aboard a pair of 40-foot sailboats,
making the 400-mile sail from Annapolis, Md. to Nantucket in a brisk
52 hours.

 

Traveling
in the wake of Hurricane Arthur, it was smooth sailing all the way up
the coast, at least until the very end of the trip.

 

“There
were a lot of variable factors that worked in our favor,” said Dax
Ansley, a rising junior who is the executive officer aboard Dolphin.

 

“The
wind was great and the weather was great. Only the last two hours
coming in it was choppy.”

 

Dolphin is a 40-foot J/122-class cruiser-racer and Ranger, the
other boat the team sailed up in, is a Farr 40 One-Design. Both have
cabins below deck that the cadets rotated, sleeping in shifts, during
the trip up from Maryland.

 

Once
they arrived on Nantucket, the cadets participated in a small race
last Wednesday night at the Nantucket Yacht Club and the two Navy
boats, Dolphin and Ranger, finished
first and second in the five-boat race.

 

“What’s
interesting is that the team sort of turns over as people graduate
from the top, and so this was the first competition that this group
sailed as a crew,” said head coach Jahn Tihansky. “It was cool
because there weren’t that many boats and it was a good first race
not on our home turf.”

 

The
Naval Academy varsity sailing team races year-round, participating in
NCAA-sanctioned events in the fall and spring, but during the summer
months they race against civilian boats, even during the school
year. The race at the Nantucket Yacht Club was special for the team
as well as they got to meet world-famous sailor Gary Jobson.

 

“He’s
one of the biggest names in sailing. Our visit dovetailed with him
and Gary used to coach with the Naval Academy many moons ago. So he
has been integrally involved with Navy sailing for a long time,”
Tihansky said of the America’s Cup winner.

 

It
was the first time the Navy sailing team had visited Nantucket,
although in the last two years, the Navy Offshore Sailing Program
visited, which is a summer team-building experience for cadets with
limited sailing experience. This year, the varsity sailing team
decided to check out Nantucket for themselves, given the amount of
time off they had early in the summer.

 

Photo by Jim Powers

The Farr40 Ranger approaches the dock at Station Brant Point. From left are Aaron Doherty, Nick Satterlee, Andy Brown and Matthew Finley.             

IM Photo Galleries

 

“The summer racing schedule this year, for whatever reason, is a little odd compared to previous years,” Tihansky said. “Normally we had about a month’s worth of stuff that we could put on our calendar and make it fit. So we have a month-long block that needs to be filled training-wise. So we made the call, why not come to Nantucket?”

 

While
on the island, the cadets traded good-old-fashioned elbow grease for
room and board thanks to a big assist from Caroline Grant at the
Great Harbor Yacht Club.

 

“They
needed some hurricane mopping up, and in exchange Caroline found some
host families for us to stay with, so everyone is staying at a nice
place. There are worse things to be doing in terms of your summer
training,” Tihansky said.

 

But
it’s not all business on this trip. When the team wasn’t out
training, the cadets were left to explore Nantucket, biking across
the island and relaxing at Nobadeer Beach.

 

The
Navy varsity sailing team is unique in that the overwhelming majority
of sailors enter the program their freshman year with little to no
big-boat sailing experience, since most high-school sailing programs
feature much smaller sailboats.

 

“Fall
of your freshman year you start off at junior varsity, then you move
up to varsity,” Ansley said. Now they train the current JV teams,
which is just as important to them as is it for the younger sailors.”

 

“I
had a way better understanding,” said Matt Finley, another rising
junior on the team. “By teaching I learned a lot about myself,
tactics, how to lead a boat, what works, what doesn’t work. All of
our training is teaching us how to be leaders. All four years we’re
working to become better leaders.”

 

Although
there are instructors on board during the travel and races, they stay
mostly hands-off, letting the kids learn through trial and error.

 

“That’s
the great thing about the sailing program.It’s the best for
leadership because we’re out there. It’s our responsibility to
know the jobs and know how to fix what breaks and sail fast,”
Finlay said. “The coaches are there in case of a dire emergency but
they will let us make mistakes and lose races.”

 

On
Saturday the team sailed out of Nantucket Harbor on its way to the
New York Yacht Club summer headquarters in Newport, R.I. for its 2014
Race Week.

To read the complete story, pick up the print edition of this week’s Inquirer and Mirror or register for the IM’s online edition by clicking here.

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