Apart from the early arrival of April showers, spring may not be quite in the air yet on the South Shore, but the Duxbury High School sailing team will welcome the season regardless as they look to build off an impressive 2013.
The Dragons took to the water on Monday at Cape Cod Academy to officially kick off the spring sports sea- son. Only 10 of the 27 sailors on the team make the trips to away meets, but head coach Chris Lash said that will be more than enough to show that the 2014 Dragons are even strong than last year, when Duxbury was the top public school sailing program in New England.
“I think we definitely got a good squad go into the season with pretty high expectations,” Lash said. “This is probably one of the years where we’ve had the most upperclassmen on the team, and that is going to be a big positive.”
Duxbury is coming off a 17-3 season a year ago in which they won the Mass Bay League as well as the women’s New England Championship and finished third in the New England Team Racing Championship. The Drag- ons lost four seniors from the 2013 team, who are all now on college sailing teams, but Lash said the veteran presence should make up for the small, but talented number of graduations.
“They were definitely big losses, but it’s nice only lose four of them,” Lash said. “Last year, the team did pretty well, and [this year,] more than half of this year’s team is upperclassmen.”
Captains Aaron Klein, Sydney Connor, Kevin Coak- ley and Caulder Stames will lead the veteran group as part of a strong top three in Duxbury’s team races along with Jan Kite-Powell, Chris Colbeth and Sarah Caso. Lash said all seven Dragons have been in the water early this spring getting set for the sea- son, and have the experience needed to deliver in every race.
“Definitely work ethic is a big part of what they do,” Lash said. “They’re definitely hard workers, got a lot of experience, gone to national events as a team. They’ve done a good bit of traveling and they are used to pressure situations.”
Behind his top seven, Lash said the Dragons have multiple talented sailors who can step into top roles, making them a dangerous team in the team races.
“We’re a very deep team,” he said. “Seven boats that could sail in that top three group. I think we’re a really strong race team. A lot of that is good communication and the ability to act quickly on the water, good awareness and good boat handling.”
Lash said that experience will be tested early on with the cold weather and high winds on the Cape making the sailing tough in the early going, but said not much short of another Nor’easter would keep the races from getting postponed.
“It’s got to be pretty bad for us not to sail. There has to be winds so strong they could capsize the boats or ab- solutely no wind of any sort,” he said. “Rain or snow — it doesn’t matter. We don’t re- ally care about weather. It’s definitely been super cold out there, but we just wear special clothing and try to limit time in the water.”
Lash said he expects Tabor Academy and St. George’s to also challenge the Dragons for league supremacy as well as a strong public-schoolcompetition from Manchester/Essex.
“The private schools are always pretty tough, because they normally get a lot of kids with a quite a bit of sailing ex- perience,” he said. “But there are also some other strong public school programs.”
Despite the fact that the Dragons are leaning heavily on upperclassmen this season, expectations are also high that the program will continue to ride their recent success past the next round of graduations. Lash said the team usually takes on a couple of new students who have no sailing experience, but said the support of the school, as well as Dux- bury Bay Maritime School, has produced a constant stream of experienced sailors ready for to take the reigns when the seniors leave.
“We had a good facility, good boats and support of DBMS plays of huge part,” he said. “A lot of kids [who sail at DBMS] sail on the high school team and that definitely plays into the high school team being successful. We always have one or two kids who are brand new to sailing in general, but by the time they are seniors, they are not only competing, but compet- ing at the New England level and the national level.”