Over Veterans Day weekend, brothers Stephen and Matt Long sailed in the ISSA Singlehanded National Championship for the Cressy Trophy off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier in Long Beach.
The event is limited to the top 36 high school singlehanded sailors, 18 Laser Full Rigs and 18 Laser Radials.
Matt and Stephen Long earned their spots in the Laser Full fleet by placing first and third, respectively, in the West Coast regional qualifier.
There are more than 225 schools competing in high school sailing nationwide. Sailor eligibility starts at the ninth grade; there are no age limits. As in college sailing, there are seven district associations that schedule events, as well as a system of national championships. The PCISA, West Coast region has 64 schools competing and includes all of California, Arizona and Hawaii. The West Coast region sent four Laser Full Rigs.
A total of 18 races were scored in the two days of racing, including 10 races on Saturday under sunny skies in winds of 16 to 18 knots. Saturday’s races started at 11 a.m. and took about 30 minutes to complete each race.
Matt Long sailed extremely well the first day, leaving the entire fleet well behind on his two first-place finishes on that day. He nearly had a third first-place finish but his mainsheet caught the corner of his boat while jibing around the second windward mark, causing him to capsize.
Stephen Long sailed his usual consistent low single-digit scores with the exception of two races that day. At the end of the first day, Stephen Long was in third and Matt Long was in fourth with 59 and 70 points, respectively.
Sunday they scored eight races in much warmer 5 to 8 knots of wind. The lighter wind conditions changed the mix of top finishers. As a result, there were a lot of positions changes that day. Matt Long sailed a couple of good races early and then struggled to find his lane the rest of the day. Ultimately, he settled into a very respectable eighth-place overall in his first high school nationals event.
Stephen Long dropped down to fourth place after three races. With two races to go he trailed third place by 10 points. He scored strong finishes in the last two races, placing him in third place overall by 3 points. His consistent performance under a multitude of conditions earned him a coveted spot on the podium along with Mitchell Kiss of Holland, Mich., and Daniel DelBello, of Bedford, N.Y.
The two brothers attend Dos Pueblos High School, where Stephen Long is a senior and Matt Long is a junior. They are attempting to lead the Dos Pueblos sailing team to the National Championships — no Santa Barbara area school has attended the national championships for more than a decade.
They have been sailing competitively since 2006, when they competed in local and regional events. For the past two years they have been competing at the national and international levels. This summer they trained with a group of eight top Southern California sailors under 2016 Olympic hopeful Caleb Paine. The group trained six days a week and traveled together to regional and national regattas.
While in school, the Longs train locally with the Santa Barbara Youth Sailing Foundation. The program supports the Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos and Laguna Blanca sailing teams. The program is directed by local San Marcos and UCSB alumni Willie McBride. Practices are three days a week and often held in conjunction with the UCSB sailing team.