By Donna Beth Weilenman
Move over, America’s Cup. Solano County is the scene of an international sailing competition, one that lets young men and women from throughout the world compete for the top Sea Scout prize.
It’s the William I. Koch International Sea Scout Cup, which began Sunday off the coast of Vallejo, said James Brown, spokesperson for the competition.
The California Maritime Academy is host of this sixth edition of the competition, and this is the first time the competition has taken place on the West Coast, Brown said.
Participants are Sea Scouts, a coeducational program that was established by Arthur Carey of Waltham, Mass., in 1912 as part of the Boy Scouts of America.
The boys first sailed aboard the schooner “Pioneer.” Later, in Philadelphia, Charles T. Lonstreth organized a Sea Scout patrol on his yacht. He and Waltham composed the Sea Scouts’ first literature.
The program grew out of the Boy Scouts’ need for organized activities for older boys.
It gained popularity when it was endorsed by Admiral Robert Byrd, whose first Antarctic expedition included a Sea Scout and Eagle Scout, Paul Siple of Erie, Pa. The program also got a boost when the U.S. Navy Department offered its cooperation.
In 1972, the program began welcoming girls.
Throughout the years, the program’s name changed several times, and its curriculum was revised. The “Sea Scouts” has been its name since 1998.
Sailing competitions also came and went, but in 2002, the Sea Scout Support Committee re-established the national Sea Scout sailing championship. The committee named the competition and its elegant prize the “,” to honor the 1992 winner of the America’s Cup and National Committee member who has supported the scouting program.
The first of the Koch Cup competitions took place in August 2002 at the Columbia Yacht Club, Chicago, Ill.
Koch is arriving to address the young sailors at the competition’s awards ceremony today, Brown said.
Five two-person teams from the Bay Area have been competing all week against young men and women from around the world who have come to Vallejo for the sailing event, said James Brown, spokesperson for the Sea Scout Cup.
Three of the teams are made up of young men: Jacob Abrahams, of South San Francisco, and his teammate Kevin Blinco, San Francisco, who took first place in the Koch Cup regional qualifying regatta last year at Stanford University; Sean Furlanic and his teammate, Steven Bray, both of Redwood City, who were second in the regional regatta; and Parker Smith, of San Rafael, and his teammate Adam Millson, of Martinez, who were third in the qualifying regatta.
By Thursday, Jacob and Kevin were ranked fifth overall at the end of the first day of Finals racing, and Parker and Adam were ranked 13th.
Two more have young women sailors, Elizabeth McKee and her teammate Daniela Zarich, both of Albany, who were second in the White Fleet of the Koch Cup Regional Qualifying Regatta last year, and Kaitlin Brawley of Pleasanton and her teammate Christina Zarich, Daniela’s older sister, of Albany, who were third in the regional regatta’s White Fleet last year. Brown said.
They’re competing against 30 other two-person teams, coming from as far away as Finland, Brazil, Trinidad, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain.
They sail “Flying Junior” sailboats, and guide their craft in winds up to 20 knots. Some who have crossed the Carquinez Bridge have been able to see the the boats’ white sails as the competition takes place.
Awards will be made at 7 p.m. today in a variety of categories, not only in sailing but also camaraderie and sportsmanship, Brown said. The ceremony is at the California Maritime Academy, 200 Maritime Academy Drive, Vallejo.
Besides Koch, those addressing the Sea Scouts today are Rear Admiral Thomas Cropper, president of the California Maritime Academy; Vice Admiral Paul Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Area; and Russell Coutts, who has won the America’s Cup three times.