Martha’s Vineyard places sixth at New England Team Racing Championship

The Vineyard sailors will race next weekend at M.I.T. in the National Invitational Tournament.

Sailors from Martha's Vineyard (white and blue sails) and the Brunswick School (Greenwich, Conn.) come to the start during the NESSA Team Racing Championship for the Mark Trophy at Wianno Yacht Club in Osterville. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School sailors made their mark at The Mark. The Vineyarders competed in their first ever New England Scholastic Sailing Association (NESSA) Team Racing Championship, Saturday at the Wianno Yacht Club in Osterville. The prize at stake was the Fritz Mark Trophy, which is why the event is often known as “The Mark Trophy” or simply “The Mark.”

A place at The Mark is reserved for the top eight teams in New England, with a NESSA committee making the final selections. The Vineyarders (19-3) came in ranked sixth. When all was said and done after a long day of sailing, they finished as they were ranked, sixth. The top four teams returned to Wianno on Sunday, with top ranked St. George’s of Newport, Rhode Island and the hosts Cape Cod Academy earning berths to the national championship (Baker Trophy) next weekend in Seabrook, Texas.

If not for some plain old bad luck and unforeseen obstacles, the Vineyarders might well have returned for a second day at The Mark.

Instead, luck smiled upon the Vineyarders afterwards. Sunday afternoon, the team learned that Hotchkiss, the fourth place school at the Mark Trophy, had a conflict with graduation, opening the door for the Vineyarders to receive a bid to the National Invitational Tournament May 24-25 at M.I.T.

“Go figure,” Vineyard head coach Andrew Burr wrote in a text to The Times Sunday afternoon, adding in a second text Monday morning, “I’m really psyched that we got in.”

At The Mark on Saturday, the three Vineyard skipper/crew combinations: Raz Sayre/Anna Flaherty; Eli Hanschka/Zana van Rooyen; and Charlie Morano/Ellie Reagan all gave outstanding efforts. Maddy Moore and Lucas Dutton also saw action in various combinations. “Lucas and Maddy did a amazing job,” Coach Burr said. “One of the highlights for me was that Lucas said to Maggie [coach Maggie Lumkes] that being at the Mark Trophy was one of the coolest competitions he ever saw.”

Through 14 races and multiple twists and turns in the plot, the Vineyarders won six and lost eight. Cape Cod Academy (CCA), was first on the day, followed by St. George’s, Portsmouth Abbey (Portsmouth, R.I.), and Hotchkiss (Lakeville, Connecticut). Manchester-Essex, the other public school in the competition, also was 6-8 and finished fifth.

How things could’ve been different. In the first of two round robin sessions against the seven other schools, the Vineyarders opened against CCA. With M.V. in front, a funny thing happened on the way to the finish — a gudgeon on one of the CCA boats broke off and the race had to be re-sailed. A pity, that. CCA won the re-sail. In the second race, the Vineyarders defeated St. George’s but the race was re-sailed after St. George’s filed for a redress over the placement of a mark on the course. The race committee granted the redress and St. George’s won the re-sail. After losing narrowly to Portsmouth Abbey, the Vineyarders met the Brunswick School from Greenwich, Connecticut and lost a victory due to protest. On a positive note, they won a protest after losing to Milton Academy. After a wild and wooly first round robin, the Vineyarders stood at 1-6.

They began the second round with losses to Cape Cod Academy and St. George’s. With their backs against the wall and a top four spot slipping away, the Vineyarders rose up and proudly took their place among the region’s elite programs, defeating Portsmouth Abbey and reeling off four more wins to close out the day.

“The third race in the second round robin [against Portsmouth Abbey] turned the day around for them,” Coach Burr said. “It couldn’t have been a sweeter race. It put the fire back in them. We sailed so well. They made all of the plays they had to make to win the race — right up the line, clean, and in control. From that race on they were undefeated.”

Coach Burr, who is assisted by Maggie Lumkes and Jesse Thomas, gave the lion’s share of the credit to his sailors.

“It’s not about me, it’s their accomplishment,” he said. “Martha’s Vineyard is an incredibly good sailing team. There’s an incredible respect between the Vineyard and the other teams [at The Mark]. Teams like Cape Cod Academy want to practice with us.”

The Vineyarders are not quite finished with their best season to date. In addition to sailing in the N.I.T. next weekend, they will vie for the Cape and Islands League championship May 31-June 1.