(CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVELERS: Meg MacKinnon, Aaron Klein, Alex Palfrey, Alec Stewart, Ian Ikeda, Hanno Kite-Powell and Sydney Connor traveled to Seattle, Washington to compete in the National Championships. Photo by Chris Lash)

The Duxbury High School sailing team competed in the High School Sailing Fleet Race National Championship in Seattle, Wash. last weekend, finishing 12th among the top competitors in the country.

Representing the Dragons in Seattle were captain Ian Ikeda, captain Alec Stewart, Hanno Kite-Powell, Sydney Connor, Meg MacKinnon, Alex Palfrey and Aaron Klein. Getting off to a slow start at the championship with a few tough races on the opening day, the Dragons finished strong on the second day, moving up to 12th-place with 428 total points: just two points out of the top 10. Only three other public schools in the country finished ahead of Duxbury at the event.

Unlike many other high school sports, all high school sailing teams fall under the same governing body (ISSA) regardless of whether they are public or private. Therefore, this event was truly for a national championship.

With just under 500 high school sailing teams in the country, competition is fierce just to qualify. Each of the seven sailing districts throughout the country hosts multiple first-round qualifiers for their respective areas. Teams that qualify in the first round attend a regional qualifier where only the top teams from each region qualify for Nationals. To ensure the best possible competition at the national level, every district is given a particular number of spots at Nationals based on the number of teams in their districts and level of competition. New England is well known as one of the strongest districts in the country, along with the Pacific Coast District, Mid Atlantic, and South Atlantic Districts. Only 20 teams in the country qualify to participate in the national championship.

The team did face several challenges going into Nationals which they worked hard to overcome.

“On a national level, we have a lot of catching up to do when we start our season in mid-March,” said Coach Chris Lash. “Many of the other teams around the country start sailing as a team in September and sail all year long. When our season gets going, we really have to try to make our practices as efficient as possible so we can get maximum time on the water. There is certainly not much down time during our practices and we sail a very packed schedule in the spring.”

Seven of the top-ten teams at the Nationals hailed from warm weather districts with year-round seasons. The other challenge Duxbury faced is that the team sails a different type of boat then those sailed in the National Championships.

“The boats that are sailed at Nationals are the ones that teams from the west coast sail on a daily basis. Most teams in our area sail a different boat on a regular basis,” said Lash. “We were very lucky that we were able to get a week of practice in the boat sailed at Nationals before going out.”

All challenges aside, the Dragons certainly sailed very well at the event and finished strong among the country’s best.

While some members of the team were out in Washington, the women’s team was busy sailing the Women’s Mass Bay League Championships in Boston. The team sailed well and ended up taking home the Women’s Mass Bay League title.

Assistant coach Matt Smith said, “The kids have been working really hard at practice all season and this title was a testament to all that hard work.”

The team is currently preparing for Team Race New Englands, Women’s New Englands, the Mass Bay League Coed Championships and States that will all be held in the next week.