Rural Va. Sailing Team Wins National Championship

The National Champion Christchurch sailing team with Coach Claire Rae (far left) and Head Coach Kieran O’Connell.

They may be small, but they are mighty. The Christchurch Seahorses, a high school sailing team on the Rappahannock River, can now claim the title of National Champions.

Christchurch is a prep school with scarcely more than 200 students. But in recent years, the Seahorse sailing team has been challenging— and beating— teams from much larger schools.

Over Memorial Day weekend in Portland, Maine, Christchurch took a shot at the Baker Trophy, the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) Team Racing Championship.

On the first day of the championship, a wind delay pushed back racing, but the 12 teams competing still fit in two round robins of 66 races complete. The fleet was broken into championship groupings of Gold, Silver and Bronze for day two. Christchurch was in Gold, and Severn School, from Severna Park, Maryland, made the Silver group.

Christchurch Head Coach Kieran O’Connell tells Bay Bulletin, “We started the Baker regatta with a 2-3 record, the team did not panic or get frustrated at each other. Instead the sailors bonded together and relied on their teammates. Christchurch beat our Chesapeake bay rival the Severn School and then handed Point Loma of San Diego their first loss in a team race in nearly two years.”

The second day brought “challenging conditions,” according to ISSA, with wind coming from the south, southeast, east, north and then back to southeast.

Coach O’Connell gives this account:

“Going into the final day of racing we knew we would have to be near perfect as we still trailed the Antilles school by two races. After going 3-0 in the first gold fleet round robin the entries regatta came down to a pivotal race against Antilles. Christchurch trailed in the race about half way through but stayed level headed and determined.”

Christchurch wound up going 11-1, losing only the final race of the event, after they’d already sealed the Baker Trophy.

Skippers in the championship were Boyd Bragg, Benton Amthor, Nathan Smith, and Mariana Guzman Casas. Crew included Reese Bragg, Anna Flynn, Carson Rozell, Nathan Smith, and Mariana Guzman Casas.

Says O’Connell, “It’s an amazing accomplishment by an incredibly talented group of sailors who expected nothing less than excellence from each other every single day on and off the water.”

The coach calls his team passionate and competitive, pushing each other to success. They also have an excellent setup for practice. Christchurch, on 125 acres along the Rappahannock, is one of only a couple of schools with sailboat racing facilities right on campus.

“We have a unique venue that offers many different types of sailing conditions,” explains O’Connell.

Chesapeake Bay Magazine featured the Seahorses on its March cover. Click here to read more about the team’s philosophy and their “David versus Goliath” story.

-Meg Walburn Viviano