Small Team Faces Big Racing Competition

Byline: Catherine French

Small Team Faces Big Racing Competition

CHANNEL ISLANDS HARBOR — Practicing on a Wednesday afternoon in the main basin, the small but powerful California State University, Channel Islands team of collegiate sailors demonstrated their prowess as they prepared for their next competition.

“We may have only 20 sailors, but they can compete head to head with any of the bigger schools with longer-running programs, up and down the coast,” said the team’s head coach, Mike O’Neill.

The campus is the 23rd in the Cal State University system — and it is the newest, having opened in 2002. Since the launch of the Cal State University, Channel Islands sailboat racing program in 2007, the university has already become one of the top finishing teams in the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference (PCCSC).

“We compete against 20 colleges in the PCCSC — schools with long-standing programs and much larger teams,” O’Neill said. “We may be small, but we continually place in the top of the fleets we compete in.”

The Cal State University, Channel Islands club sailing team is the only sports team on campus that competes against other colleges. They vie against teams from California Maritime Academy, Long Beach State, San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara and UC San Diego, among other powerhouses in the conference.

The university funds the program and provides boats for the team to race, which they trailer to events along the coast.

Most of the collegiate events are sailed aboard Flying Juniors (FJs) and Lasers. However, for the Port of Los Angeles Harbor Cup Cal Maritime Invitational Intercollegiate Regatta, the sailors compete aboard Catalina 37s. The host for the event is Los Angeles Yacht Club, and the Long Beach Sailing Foundation provides boats for the 11 teams that are invited to compete.

Lisa Marchand, sailing club president, is among the top seven competitors for the team.

“Our team has been invited to sail in the Harbor Cup each year since our program began in 2007. And, we have done well: Last year (and this year, too), we took third place behind Cal Maritime Academy, in first place … It was a great showing of the strength of our team,” Marchand said.

For more information about the club sailing team, email

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