Setting precedents in high school sailing

Published on December 15th, 2022

Charles Barclay, Houston Yacht Club Sailing Director, gives some love to his region:

A first for women in high school sailing occurred in 2022 on December 10-11 in St. Petersburg, FL.

Since 2014, the High School Keelboat National Invitational has been held in Florida at the end of the fall sailing season. Initially held in Sonars, the event moved to St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s J70s in 2016.

Teams qualify in each of the seven Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) districts with three at large berths granted by the organizer. It has been won by men each year, with the best finish by a female skipper being 7th place.

However, in a tightly contested 9-race regatta, Clear Falls High School Sailing team (League City, TX), skippered by Ava Anderson (‘23), took the lead in the final race to win the 2022 title. Anderson finished 9th in her first go at the event in 2019 as a freshman.

Anderson’s mixed team had Korbin Bendele (‘25) in the pit, Kailey Warrior (‘23) on jib trim and bow, and Hamilton Barclay (‘23) on trim and tactics. The Clear Falls team found itself in a tussle with top teams that had won national championships in fleet, team, and singlehanded racing in 2022.

Anderson and her teammates compete in the southeast district, which is a challenging region with one of the broadest geographic areas yet the fewest teams. However, the SEISA also won in 2021 with Lake Travis High School (Austin, TX).

In the 10-team event, Clear Falls made life hard with an eighth and a fifth to start off, but soon gelled with better starts, good upwind performance in shifty conditions, and downwind legs that saw the team pass on all but the legs they led at the windward mark.

The final day forecast looked bleak to get any races off, but SPYC’s PRO was determined to complete the battle between upstart Clear Falls and the powerhouses of high school sailing.

Clear Falls won the first race to close within two points of Severn School, but Clear Falls stumbled at the start on the next race, rounding the weather mark in 8th but jibed on shifts and pressure and worked their way up to a 4th place finish. Severn finished 7th which was good enough for the lead going into Race 10.

The Race Committee got another start off but recalled the fleet in a general recall, and now at the deadline, Clear Falls was declared the victor. This was the second time for Clear Falls winning the Keelboat Invitational, having done so in 2015 while also competing in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

L- R: Kailey Warrior (‘23), Ava Anderson (‘23), Hamilton Barclay (‘23), Korbin Bendele (‘25)

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