The team built on last year’s achievements to record best season ever
Public high schools do not usually have powerhouse sailing teams, even in a sailing-rich state like Rhode island, but the Avenger Sailing team has proved itself among the top sailing teams in the country this year, building on last year’s successes.
For the first time in program history, the Avengers won the New England regatta known as the Terk Trophy, with team members and senior captains Mara Oancea, Zach Amelotte, and Neala Bijari, along with Owen Warren, Maddie Jarbeau, Pierson Falk, Harper Kelley, Colin Auvil, and Milo Baumgartner.
The Terk win resulted in an invitation to compete for the national Phoebe King Trophy, with 17 other teams. There are just two national high school regattas, making the EG team among the best 36 teams in the country. As it happened, the regatta last weekend coincided with graduation weekend, so only Amelotte of the three seniors opted to travel to Virginia for the race.
“This was something I’ve been working toward for a while,” Amelotte said the day before heading down to Virginia. “Everyone goes to graduation; very few people get to go to a national sailing event.”
For Amelotte, sailing in the Phoebe King was an opportunity to do his best at the final regatta of his high school career as well as a chance to pave the way for the Avenger team to make return trips.
“We want to make sure we are comfortable; we want [the team] to be able to get back here again,” he said.
The Avengers finished 13th overall at Phoebe King and “we were pretty happy with that,” said Keith Amelotte (Zach’s dad), the chairman of Avenger Sailing. (There is no official sailing team for the high school; the team is entirely self-sustaining, run by a 501 c-3 nonprofit.)
Zach finished 10th in A fleet, sailing all 13 races with crewing duties split between Harper Kelley and Pierson Falk. The B fleet finished in 14th, with skipper duties split between Owen Warren and Colin Auvil. Crewing in B fleet were Maddie Jarbeau and Cole Kinzie.
Zach Amelotte said this year’s success was a continuation of last year’s season, where they qualified for the O’Day Championship for the first time.
“That was a really big thing for this team,” he said. The mindset for this season was, “Let’s put the pedal to the metal and see how far we can take this.”
The mindset worked. One year after qualifying for the O’Day for the first time, the Avengers won the regatta in May.
Another factor in this year’s success was an additional coach. Seven years after taking over the team, EGHS alum Rob Russell got an assistant coach, Anita Lessard. The extra help, and the presence of a woman coach, made a big difference. Sailing is one of the few co-ed high school sports (Unified teams are another).
“I love that dynamic of boys and girls” on the team, said Russell. “To be successful in sailing, it’s way more about intelligence and smart decision making and technique rather than to just brute strength you way through something…. We’ve really had a good mix of male and female sailors competing at a very high level.”
“This year is definitely the best in the program’s history,” said Russell. “These events we’re qualifying for and going to really help sustain that level since your only measure is to the people you compete against. When you take a step up and start punching above your weight class … it forces you to do better.”
He added, “These are incredibly tough regattas. Just getting the experience and sailing in these high level events, builds experience and inspires the younger sailors.”