While most of my classmates are at the Academy, diligently preparing for the arrival of the Class of 2016, I, along with some other members of the Dinghy and Offshore Sailing Teams, are in Newport, Rhode Island as part of the Coast Guard Academy’s Summer Ocean Racing Program.
The Summer Ocean Racing program presents a unique opportunity for select cadets from the sailing teams to spend a summer on the New England sailing circuit, racing against professional sailors and similar programs from the Naval and Merchant Marine academies. The program is made up of several smaller regattas that culminate in the New York Yacht Club Annual Series and the Newport to Bermuda Race.
For the first two weeks of the summer, ocean racers from the classes of 2013 and 2015 came together to start practicing and preparing for the busy summer season. Meanwhile, the Class of 2014 was busy being “reoriented to military life” by the Cape May company commanders, the elite enlisted men and women responsible for training all of the Coast Guards enlistees at Training Center Cape May, New Jersey. The company commanders used the first day of the week to demonstrate the training environment, but spent the rest of it teaching us the tools and techniques they used to accomplish this. This week was also significant because it marked the Class of 2014’s halfway point in our Academy careers: 100 weeks of our 200-week training program completed. And at the end of the week, our hard work was rewarded when we were promoted to second-class cadets.
After that action-packed week, the next was quite the opposite. Rules of the Road class kept us trapped in a classroom for hours on end as we memorized important navigation rules to prevent collisions. At the end of the week, we took a final exam to prove our knowledge and earn our certification.
With two weeks of the Ocean Racing program already completed, the second-class ocean racers finally got to join the team. After only four days of being together as a full crew, the crew of Glory, a J/44 racing sailboat, headed to Stamford, Connecticut for the Around Block Island race. The 186 nautical mile race started and finished in Stamford. Unfortunately, the breeze velocity was extremely low, turning a 36-hour race into a 44-hour ordeal. The last five nautical miles took six hours to complete, our anemometer reading 0.00 knots of wind for several of those hours.
After the ABI race, it we got another week of practice before a weekend of buoy racing. Unfortunately, our first regatta was cancelled due to high winds and rough seas. Instead of taking the day off, we sailed into the Race, the strait between Fishers Island and Little Gull Island where all the water flows into Long Island Sound. We spent a couple of hours getting tossed around by 12 to 15 foot waves, which was great fun. The next day, Glory was leading the entire fleet when a misplaced line caused a spinnaker douse to go awry, but we recovered quickly enough to secure a third place finish.
For the past five days, we’ve been in Newport, Rhode Island, for the New York Yacht Club Annual Series. The first race was an 18-mile jaunt around one of the islands in Narragansett Bay. We sailed pretty well and were happy with our performance. The next race was a simple four-leg buoy race. The wind was very light, but that was no excuse for our subpar performance. Fortunately, we sailed much better the second day, crossing the line before any other service academy boat.
Now, we’re almost to the end of the program. On June 15, we’ll be departing Newport and racing to the island of Bermuda. This four-day race will be the culmination of out training. Upon our arrival, we’ll have a few days of rest and relaxation in Bermuda. Then we’ll get on with the rest of our summer. Bring on the swabs!
For more information on the Summer Ocean Racing program, check us out on Facebook as USCGA Ocean Racing.
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