Last year at the Pacific Coast Championships, the Corona del Mar High sailing team missed a trip to the nationals by one point. One point.
It was painful. Yet it's also been a source of motivation for this year's team as CdM continues in its quest to reach the Fleet Race Nationals.
CdM returns to the Pacific Coast Championships Saturday at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club in San Pedro, where the squad must finish in the top five to move on to the Super Bowl of high school sailing.
"Last year we were fifth at Pacific Coast Championships, but we missed it by one point," CdM sailing coach Nate Dunham said. "It was a heartbreaker. So this year we are trying to really make up for last year.
"We had a couple of seniors who graduated from last year. But some of these guys they were sophomores last year, they definitely want it. They've been working hard. I'm sure there is definitely a bad taste in their mouth from last year."
CdM wants to be the Sea Kings when it comes to sailing and rule the waters. Based on projections they have a great chance of getting the opportunity to compete against the nation's best.
Corona del Mar is ranked No. 3 in the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Assn., but tied with rival Newport Harbor with seven points. The points are based on finishes in five regattas leading up to this weekend's PCCs.
The top five teams out of the 20 at the PCCs advance to the nationals, to sail for the Mallory trophy May 10-12 in Chicago. Next week, CdM will compete in a different competition, team racing PCCs at Mission Bay, and will try to be among the top three to qualify for those nationals and sail for the Baker trophy May 24-26 at Davis Island YC, Dunham said.
Dunham, 36, who has been coaching the CdM sailing team since 2000, knows what it's like to win a national championship as a sailor. He is a 1995 graduate of Newport Harbor, where he won a high school national title in sailing with the Sailors.
He sees potential in his team that is chasing top-ranked Point Loma and No. 2-ranked Cathedral Catholic.
"We're a super stacked team, a veteran team," Dunham said. "We have some really talented juniors and seniors."
Two seniors and six juniors have been key factors in helping CdM remain in contention for a trip to nationals.
The two seniors Chloe Dapp and Caitlyn Johnson are both crew.
The juniors feature skippers Jack Thompson, Connor Kelter, Christophe Killian and Jimmy Madigan, as well as crew Claire Dahl and Alex Ivory.
"I feel that this year we have done pretty well per regatta; we're consistent," Madigan said. "Our team feels strong and our team is pretty confident to being in that top five and qualifying to go to nationals.
"Last year, it came down to a few races," he said. "It was unfortunate. Knowing that we came that close last year, it could've been such a reality, definitely this year we pushed a lot harder to have a comfortable cushion going into the PCCs."
Dunham said the team is excited about this weekend. The Sea Kings have been training hard leading up to the PCCs.
"We want the regatta to happen tomorrow," Dunham said Wednesday. "We're ready. It's time to go out and earn respect for Corona del Mar High School. We want to get to nationals and try to win nationals."
Last year's one-point heartbreak isn't the only motivation for CdM. The team also gains purpose from its rival, Newport Harbor.
The teams usually practice together on Thursdays at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Last week, the teams practiced at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club.
The teams push each other to get better. It's always been that way between the rivals.
"The kids grew up together," said Dunham, who described the rivalry as a friendly one. "No one wants to lose. There is an intense competition going back and forth. Both teams want to win."
At the most recent competition, the Gaucho Regatta in Santa Barbara, Newport Harbor came out on top. CdM finished in second. It gave both teams confidence that they may be peaking at the right time.
"Now this is the biggest one," Dunham said of the PCCs. "Newport and us are tied. There's a lot of pressure on the teams to get to the nationals."
It's the pressure that gets Dunham and his CdM team excited. They don't want to miss a trip to the nationals by one point again.