The UC Irvine sailing team was edged out of first place on Saturday, narrowly missing the Sloop Pacific Coast Championship by one point to the University of Southern California in Newport Beach.
Going into the sixth and final race of the competition, the UCI boat, manned by skipper Brian Hoover and crew Frank O’Brien and Jack Porter, was in first place ahead of second-place University of Hawaii and third-place USC. The Anteaters needed to finish ahead of both teams in order to win the Sloop PCC and qualify for the national Sloop Championship later this year. But their chance at grabbing the title at home diminished in the final race.
At the start of the race, UCI found themselves stuck on one side of the course, unable to tack over to the right side and get back into the game.
They were prevented from making the turn to get back into the race by UH, who needed to keep Irvine from getting around them in order to win the championship. However, in doing so, UH left the course wide open for USC to jump out to a huge lead, leaving Irvine to struggle to get back to the front.
After Irvine sailed to the first marker, they made the turn only to see USC in first place. Irvine finished the final race in fifth place, four points behind USC in the race and one point behind them in the overall competition.
“I thought we had a legitimate chance to win it,” O’Brien said. “It was really unfortunate to see it all fall apart in the last race. But this was just motivation for us. We know we have the talent and can sail at this level, but we just made one more mistake than USC this weekend.”
This was the biggest qualifier for the team in its fall season. The team sails year round in different sized boats for different championships. This was Irvine’s first chance to make it to a national championship and even though they came up short, the race proved to be a positive one for the Anteaters.
“They sailed great,” said Head Coach Mike Pinckney. “They did everything I asked and we let USC get away with one. We just have to learn from this and take it into our other races coming up.”
The Anteaters will compete this weekend in San Diego as the women hit the water for Irvine in the Women’s Fall Championship.