I have done so many things that I never would have been able to do had I not gone to the Academy and the summer is only half way done! Here’s a little taste of what I have been doing during my summer so far:
The week before finals started, the women’s dinghy team (including myself) competed in the qualifiers for women’s semi-finals. We sailed our hardest and qualified! It was awesome for our young team to be able to do this – we consist mainly of all 4/c and 3/c and one 2/c. In my division, I competed as the skipper with my crew being fellow blogger Christi Frost. We placed 4th in our division! Now that we qualified we had a lot of work to do before heading to St. Petersburg for the semi-finals. For the next two weeks we trained here at the Academy as well as down in Maryland with St. Mary’s College and the U.S. Naval Academy. In those two weeks I learned a lot and we all felt we were very prepared for the competition. After the two weeks of practice, we headed down to Florida, hoping to qualify for Nationals. We arrived at the site; there was little wind and extreme heat. It was a stressful two days and we sailed our hardest, but we did not qualify. The team was upset, but we are motivated to try our best and go to Nationals next year!
After returning to the Academy, Christi and I began our Phase I summer assignment – ocean racing! Ocean racing consists of sailing a J44 (Glory) in an ocean race and a few buoy races. Since both have us had missed two weeks of ocean racing due to practicing for semi-finals, we had a lot to learn. We had a week before the team was going to transit to Annapolis. The week flew by and soon we were packing up the boat and leaving New London for Maryland. The night before we left, everyone on the team was staring at the weather – our transit was going to be a rough one. There was going to be heavy winds (25-30 knots) and 8-10 foot seas. The next three days were challenging. Within five hours, our mainsail ripped and had to be taken down – meaning we would have to motor the rest of the way down to Annapolis. Most of us were not feeling well and the rocking waves were not helping. Eventually we put up a storm sail and our smallest jib in order to help ease the rocking. We eventually made it to the Delaware Bay where the seas calmed and it was a much easier transit to Annapolis. As we saw the town, I was never more excited to see land.
We stayed in Annapolis for a few days – preparing the boat for the Annapolis-Newport Race that would begin on Friday, June 7th. Again, we were watching the weather – the first tropical storm of the season was supposed to hit Annapolis right when our race was going to begin. Just our luck! The race committee decided to postpone the start and so we started four hours late. We still would sail in tropical storm force winds though! We started the race and wind gradually increased. During the middle of the night, we saw wind speeds over 30 knots. We were moving super fast! We raced down the Chesapeake with about 40 other sailboats. In the middle of the night all you could see were a few lights on their masts. By daytime we were out of the Chesapeake and in the ocean. There was very little breeze and it was really sunny – a welcome change from the stormy night. At that point we were 2nd in our division! For the rest of the race we sailed in the Atlantic. We saw almost every type of weather. We saw rain, hail, sun, wind, no wind and every combination of these things. The best thing about the race for me was that we were alone on the ocean and it was one of the most beautiful things in the world. During the day, all I could see was the water on the horizon for miles and miles. We saw so many cool animals during the day, there were turtles, a shark, a whale jumping out of the water and at one point a pod of dolphins played in our wake for about a mile. But my favorite was the nighttime. During the night you could see the dark sea and the stars and the moon. The stars were the brightest I have ever seen and they were everywhere. There were also a ton of shooting stars. We could see everything in the night sky. It was then that you could truly feel how small you are. It is so hard to describe the awesomeness of this experience; I wish I could just show you all.
The last 12 hours of the race were definitely the hardest. The wind picked up and we hit a storm. Our boat was heeled over so much that the lifelines were in the water most of the time. We were frustrated that we were so close to land but it was taking so long. It was raining and we were cold and ready to take a long, hot shower. We finally finished the race at 0755 on Tuesday, June 11th.
That race was one of the most fun and memorable experiences I have ever had. I saw some of the most beautiful things, I learned a lot, and I got to do one of my favorite things – sail. So far this summer has been amazing and I cannot wait for the rest of my summer! For the next two weeks I will be doing buoy races on Glory. And then I will spend four weeks of USCGC Eagle where we will go to Bermuda, St. Pierre, Halifax and then Boston. I hope everyone is having an awesome summer!
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