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St. Mary's annual alumni regatta, the Possum Bowl, offered some chilling lessons for this recent grad.

Sailing World

Possum Bowl

Franny Kupersmith

I graduated from St. Mary’s in May, and there are a few things I haven’t missed about college sailing: excessively long van rides, sailing in the cold, making myself into a small ball in the bottom of an FJ…

So, logically, I packed up my drysuit and wool socks, hopped into the car for a 9-hour ride from Rhode Island to southern Maryland, and mentally prepared myself to crew in an FJ for a couple of races at our annual alumni regatta, Possum Bowl.

The first Saturday of December every year, Possum Bowl brings in Seahawks from across the nation (this year, from Washington, Florida, and New England, among others) for a one-day showdown in two fleets of boats. And while the tradition is always to try to have the most fun (in whatever form that might take), there’s no stopping the competitive juices brought on by racing. It’s still time to duke it out on the starting line, play the shifts brought on by the day’s bridge breeze, and shake off the boat to weather with a leebow.

Above: The fleet sails by St. Mary's newest dorm: a cruise ship. Photo: Franny Kupersmith

Megan—my senior-year skipper, college housemate and good friend—and I finish midfleet in the first race after we realize we’re headed to the wrong end of the line for the finish. “Know the course”—that’s something I’ve seen on the whiteboard at practice before…

We take note, get a good start in the second race, play the shifts, and wait for others to make the same mistake. It’s good enough for the win.

(Above): Holding on in the middle (boat 18). Photo: Franny Kupersmith

By the time the third race rolls around, those “competitive juices” are a bit too much (we did have to celebrate our bullet), and we capsize rounding the leeward mark. Whoops! I should have actually worn my drysuit…

We watch the fleet sail upwind, right our boat, and clean up our recycling. With chattering teeth, I regretfully say, “We would have been top five!” But we both know it doesn’t really matter.

Competition is why most of us—myself included—get into college sailing initially. But, Possum Bowl reminded me about why most of us love it: teammates, camaraderie, being on the water, and late-night shenanigans (I’ll leave that one to the imagination).

Next year, we’ll be back, and we’ll be wearing drysuits.