Newport Harbor sailing team fifth in nation at Mallory Regatta

On a beautiful sunny weekend in Seattle, the 20 best high school sailing teams in the nation, chosen through district and regional qualifiers, competed in the Interscholastic Sailing Assn. High School Fleet Racing Championship — the Mallory trophy.

Newport Harbor High sent a team of nine sailors: Franchie Cappellini, Jackie Cappellini, Keenan Chung, Ryan Davidson, Erik Higbie, Daniel Segerblom, Greer Wattson and Chase Wells. They placed fifth in the nation. Three of the top four came from the competitive Pacific Coast Region.

Sailors from across the nation were pleasantly surprised with the wonderful sunny weather and blustering breezes they were given while sailing on Lake Union, with temperatures in the 70's and winds from 8 to 12 knots. They were able to sail 20 races in each the A and the B division over the two days.

The sailors were also surprised with the amount of traffic, both on and above the water. They navigated through seaplanes, which were landing in front of them, and taking off beside them, commercial tourist boats, pleasure sailors and kayakers.

"I've never sailed in such a busy venue before. It was wild," Francesca Cappellini said.

Often at the start of a race a seaplane would fly over the top of their heads to land in the clear water ahead of them.

Watching from the docks of The Center for Wooden Boats, on the south shore of Lake Union, was fabulous and very entertaining for the spectators. They were watching both the racing and the seaplanes and the busy boating going on around them on a glorious Mothers' Day weekend.

The A division competed in Vanguard 15s, and the B division competed in the CFjs or the 14-foot Flying Juniors. Because the two divisions were sailing in different boats, both fleets were on the race course at the same time, alternating starts.

They would come back to the dock to rotate boats within their class and then head out again. With no real breaks, the sailors sailed from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, getting in 13 races each, and 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, finishing seven more races.

On Saturday, the first five spots switched back and forth numerous times, with Newport Harbor competing for the second spot throughout the day. On Sunday, the field settled down with Newport in fifth, and Point Loma kept their commanding lead, finishing first overall.

Segerblom and Francesca Cappellini, in the B Division, had five bullets or first places, more than any other boat in either division. They sailed consistently with 109 points and Wells and Higbe also sailed one set each.

Davidson, Wattson and Chung finished with 199 points in the very competitive A Division.

Bill Wakeman, the first sailing coach for Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar, and the founder and director of the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Assn. for many years, was proud to see Newport Harbor go on to the Mallory.

"It's great to see our local team continue to compete at a strong National level," he said.

Wakeman, who has the PC Championship Trophy named after him, commented on the team's great history.

"I think Newport Harbor has competed in almost every national championship since the team formed, before they even called it the Mallory Regatta," said Wakeman , who coached the team for over 20 years and taught English at Newport Harbor in the '70s and '80s. "We've won our share of national championships and have developed some incredible sailors over the years."

Newport Harbor last won the national championship in 2009, when seniors Davidson and Francesca Cappellini both sailed for the team as freshmen inSt. Petersburg, Fla. They also won the national championship that year for team racing.

The team will try to do that again when they compete in the Baker Trophy at MIT on Memorial Day weekend.

MARY CAPPELLINI is a Newport Harbor High School sailing team parent.

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