For the first time in three years, the Marblehead High Fishwagons sailing team enjoyed a complete schedule of races as an independent squad. The Fishwagons are roughly among 40 high school sailing teams competing in the state, and most are participating as independents after the pandemic wiped out their regularly scheduled races since 2020. There’s hope they will be rejoining the Mass. Bay League (Division A / B), which is a part of the New England Scholastic Sailing Association (NESSA), next spring.
The Marblehead sailors went 5-2 this year, before the state championships were held at MIT on May 24-25 for the first time since 2019. It employs the fleet racing rules, opposed to the digital standard course rules that high school and college teams utilize during the regular season.
“The fleet rules stipulate for boats to race against the entire fleet, while the digital rules emphasize teams racing against other teams to jockey for position. It’s a more aggressive form of racing,” said new Fishwagons coach Steve Eckman, who has spent the last 30 years assisting the Big Blue sailing team out of Swampscott.
Eckman has been teaching sailing since 1975, when he was at the Nantucket Yacht Club during the summer months. A Pennsylvania native, Eckman has been based out of the Pleon Yacht Club in recent years.
“I have dedicated my life to help promote awareness of the sport,” said Eckman, who’s quite enthusiastic about his latest venture in Marblehead.
“This is basically a rebuilding year,” Eckman added. “They only had one race last year, and there were none the previous two springs, because of the pandemic.
“We started with 14 sailors at the beginning of this season, and eventually ended up with 11, who are truly dedicated to the sport,” continued the first-year Marblehead sailing mentor. “We had three senior captains and a strong bench of freshmen and sophomores to go along with one junior that helped produce our winning record. My goal for next year is to increase the roster size by recruiting more from the middle school ranks, who are ready to make that transition to high school.”
During the season, they raced in the 420s with two-person boats made up of a skipper and crew member.
Eckman held one last practice session with the team on May 30, primarily to discuss next year’s plans. “We talked about the lessons learned from the races this spring, and what we should do differently with our goals and responsibilities for next year, and that includes me, not just the returning kids,” said Eckman.
It all started on March 21, the first day of practice, for the Fishwagons. The team’s first race was against Belmont Hill on the Mystic Lakes on April 5. The host team won, 3-2. A week later on April 13, once again on Mystic Lake, Winchester provided the opposition, and the visitors dropped their second race of the year, 4-1.
The wins now started to come for the Marblehead squad, and it all began with Belmont Hill again on the Mystic Lake on April 24. The winning margin of difference was, 3-1.
St. John’s Prep was Marblehead’s second victim on the first day of May. On Lake Quannapowitt, the Fishwagons shutout the Eagles, 3-0. They did it to the Eagles again on May 8 at Pleon, 2-0. Once again at Pleon on May 11, the Marblehead crew defeated Lincoln-Sudbury, 2-1. The locals made it five in a row, when they defeated the Winthrop-Swampscott co-op at Pleon on May 19, 3-0.
The Marblehead Fishwagons’ roster this spring consisted of freshmen D.B. Murray, Thomas Svencer and Tyler Dana; sophomores Ella Bendetto, Clive Connolly, Max Dressel and Nicolas Regnault; junior Aidan McKiernan; and senior captains Olivia Hoover, Lane Kaeyer and Anne Simcoe.