Great Oaks Regatta Pictures

Two teams, from Lincoln and Wilson high school, traveled south to New Orleans this November to participate in the All-State Sugar Bowl Great Oaks Regatta. The regatta was hosted by the newly rebuilt Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchartrain and was attended by 42 high schools from across the country. Lincoln and Wilson high schools’ teams were the only two teams to attend from the northwest, but they weren’t from the furthest away this year, with one team traveling from Hawaii and one from the US Virgin Islands. This was Wilson high school’s second trip to the Great Oaks regatta and Lincoln high school’s third. The regatta is one of the four Interscholastic Sailing Association’s national championships and is open to teams that have not qualified for the Baker or Mallory trophy in the past four years.

Sailing for Lincoln high school this year were seniors Ciara Anderson and Jared Valeske as well as Junior Natalie Danziger. Wilson high was represented by senior Austin Sandifer and freshman Belle Lemoine. The two teams trained together all fall as part of the WSC high school team and put in a number of extra hours both on and off the water. For the three seniors it was a capstone event, all of whom have been with the WSC team for four years.

The sailors arrived in New Orleans a day before the regatta to get in some extra practice time and adjust to the time change. The practice day was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the high 60’s and breeze in the mid to low teens. When the sailors arrived on Saturday they were split into two separate qualifying fleets, red and green, of 21 teams each and would race all day to determine a gold and silver fleet on Sunday. Races got underway shortly after 10:30 in a building SE breeze.

Lincoln sailors Anderson and Danziger got off to a strong start picking up two single digit finishes and a third in mid-fleet. At about noon, the breeze dropped out and moved south, presenting a new challenge as the morning’s easterly chop remained on the race course. Waves are a rare find on the Willamette and hardly ever seen in 5-6 knots unless they follow a power boat. For Lincoln it was a quick lesson in finding boat speed with two tough races before the breeze built back in. The girls bounced back, though, and held onto a series of mid-fleet or better finishes. After 13 races, the cardinals placed 12th out of 21 in the red fleet, missing the gold round by only 7 points.

This was Wilson sailor Austin Sandifer’s second trip to the sugar bowl and having missed the gold fleet by a single point last year, he had his eyes on the front of the fleet this year. Sandifer and Lemoine found their stride quickly and focused on consistent and conservative sailing. With some races lasting only 10-12 minutes, strong starts and connecting with the first shift was their key to good finishes. A focus on physical training and good nutrition helped the team stay strong throughout a very long day of non-stop racing, and by the end of Saturday’s races the Wilson pair were looking stronger and sailing faster than almost all of their fleet. The Wilson team finished 6th overall in green fleet and qualified for Sunday’s gold fleet.

Sunday morning came early, but a thick fog bank and light winds held the sailors on shore until 10am. Gold fleet got underway first with noticeably flatter waters and warmer temps. The Wilson team once again focused in on consistency and low risk maneuvers and was rewarded with a string of mid-fleet finishes while they found the groove. By race 8 the team moved into the single digits and started finding the windward mark with the front of the fleet. After 12 races the pair finished 13th out of 22 teams in gold and walked away with huge smiles.

For the Lincoln team, Sunday was a chance to rotate B-fleet skipper and heavy air crew, Jared Valeske, back onto the course. Jared took the helm for the first 10 races after having watched all of Saturday’s races from the rotation dock. Skipper Ciara Anderson and crew Natalie Danziger rotated through the front of Jared’s boat to help share the lessons learned on Saturday. The Lincoln team once again found their best boat speed once the breeze built and started to lead the pack around the course by mid-afternoon on a number of occasions. At the end of yet another long day, the team placed 11th out of 20 teams in Silver fleet.

Of course a trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a little sight-seeing. A trip to the French Quarter on Sunday night brought southern style Po-boys at Acme Oyster House, beignets at Café du Monde and jazz at Preservation hall. On Monday it was a somber tour of the lower 9th ward and the remaining devastation left by hurricane Katrina. In the afternoon the team explored the French Market, ate lunch on Magazine St., walked the Mississippi and played football on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. In all, it was an incredibly memorable trip and one both teams will be sure to talk about for years to come.  Both teams are likely to bring back a wealth of knowledge from the experience and will be eager to test their new skills against the rest of the WSC team and the northwest district this spring when the high school season starts back up. – Kyle Eaton, High School Race Program Coach

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