The Staples High School co-ed sailing team has finished another positive season, according to coach Dylan Abel, that included a third-place finish in the Gold Cup, the biggest regatta in the Fairfield County spring season.
The Fairfield County Sailing League is made up of 10 schools that race competitively in the spring. The Wreckers posted a 3-6 record during the season and were placed in the Silver Cup. Staples won the Silver Cup, which featured the bottom five teams in the league, on May 17 to earn a spot in the Gold Cup the following day. Darien finished first in the Gold Cup, followed by Stamford and the Wreckers.
Staples, which has had a sailing program for about 15 years, is ranked in the top 50 nationally for the first time. The Wreckers had only reached the Gold Cup one other season prior to 2014.
"Staples is looking to go to that next level and to really compete with the schools that are going to nationals," said Staples second-year coach Abel.
The Wreckers, who race out of Cedar Point, meet in the fall and race competitively in the spring.
Team races involve six boats -- three on each team -- with the goal to complete a course in a quicker time than the opponent. This can require cooperative teamwork between the boats that may involve blocking and other tactics. The boat that crosses the finish line first earns one point and the final boat that finishes is awarded six points. The team with the fewest total points wins the race.
"I definitely love the aspect of teamwork; team camaraderie out on the water," Staples senior captain Ellie Gavin said. "I think that team racing is more fun than fleet racing, you are out there working with your team."
The teams race in boats known as 420s, referring to the boat's 4.2 meter overall length. Two racers are in each boat and have their own set of responsibilities. A skipper steers the boat with a tiller and works the main sail while a crew manages the jib, a sail crucial to direction. The duo must work seamlessly while navigating unpredictable waters and wind conditions.
"It's the most complex sport that I know of, by far," Abel said. "It's the only sport where the course is constantly changing under you; everything is constantly moving and you are constantly reacting. You are always thinking about all these factors and everyone is in the same boat."
In addition to Gavin, the Wreckers also got valuable contributions from sophomores Will Dumke and Robert Gordon and junior captain Suki Hyman this season, according to Abel.
"(Gordon) is a fantastic sailor," Abel said. "He's going to be one of the captains next year; he sails internationally and he has been a great help to the team as far as bringing that competitive level up. He's a great skipper."
Staples graduates just four seniors from its 17-member team, as an influx of underclassmen has helped the program blossom.
"Our team in Staples is growing in popularity," Abel said. "The team hasn't had to make cuts before last year. I had to start cutting people it was gaining popularity."