Martha’s Vineyard sailors compete well with New England’s best

Raz Sayre and Anna Flaherty (second from right) control the Belmont Hill boat during a starting sequence Saturday at Tabor Academy. — Photo by Andrew Burr

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sailing team, off to a 4-0 start after the first week of competition, raced with some of the best schools in the region last weekend in events at Tabor Academy in Marion and St. George’s in Middletown, R.I. A win against either of the host schools would make a strong case for the Purple and White to rank in the New England top 10.

The Vineyarders sailed against Tabor, Belmont Hill, and Dennis-Yarmouth on Saturday. Coach Andrew Burr’s team came away with two convincing wins and a competitive showing against the hosts.

The Vineyard line-up featured Raz Sayre (skipper) paired with Anna Flaherty (crew); James Ulyatt and Tyler Shapiro; and Eli Hanschka with Russell Shapiro. Charlie Morano also skippered with Ellie Reagan as crew.

M.V. defeated Belmont Hill 3-1 and swept D-Y, 3-0. The Vineyarders raced well in light and shifty winds in a 3-0 loss to Tabor Academy but needed clean starts and a mistake-free afternoon to pull off the upset.

“We are an 80 percent sophomore team racing to the point where we were competitive with them [Tabor],” coach Burr said. “The team sailed very well against Tabor.”

The Vineyarders continued the busy weekend on Sunday in Newport, R.I. against North Kingstown, R.I., Hotchkiss from Lakeville, Conn., and St. George’s.

Against North Kingstown, the Vineyarders sailed well and aggressively, but the Skippers made the best moves when they needed to be made and posted a 3-0 win.

“We were in a position where we were either winning the race or we were losing but in a position to play a winning combination,” Coach Burr said. “In either situation, we either lost because North Kingstown did what they had to do to win or we made a small mistake in not executing a play the right way. It’s a case of a young, talented team learning that the smallest details separate the best teams.”

The Vineyarders took on Hotchkiss next and had the opening race well in their favor going onto the leeward leg. After the windward and downward legs, Raz Sayre and Katie Johnson were in first place, followed by Charlie Morano and Anna Flaherty in second. Eli Hanschka and Russell Shapiro held the fifth spot. As the race stood, M.V. held an 8-13 lead.

Then came the pivotal point in the afternoon. With the 1-2 positions locked up, the Vineyarders did not adhere to a standard covering maneuver. Subsequently, the third place Hotchkiss boat was able to move up and take second, allowing the Bearcats back into the race.

From that moment on, Hotchkiss executed flawlessly during the last upwind leg and won the race by establishing a 2-3-4 combination in the last 100 yards.

After the loss, the Vineyarders struggled to get their groove back in the remaining races against Hotchkiss and St. George’s.

On the bright side, all of the Vineyarders, including Elie Jordi, Doug Andrade, Ellie Reagan and Maddy Moore, got to sail by day’s end.

“To see a team that young be up there with Tabor and Hotchkiss, competitive off the line, competitive at the start and competing at the same level as the best teams in New England — that’s a good sign,” Coach Burr said. “It was a good way to tell us where we stand. A win would have been awesome, but this is the next best thing.”

The Vineyarders (6-4) will next set their sights on the O’ Day fleet racing qualifiers Saturday at the Hyannis Yacht Club. The top three teams from five qualifying regions will advance to the final Sunday at the Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, Connecticut.

On Tuesday, the Vineyarders are back to team racing, hosting Barnstable at the Sailing Camp at 3 pm.