The national collegiate sailing championships were held at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point for the first time since 2000. Credit: Danielle Silverman, Barry Sloan

The last time the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point hosted the national collegiate sailing championships was 23 years ago.

So officials were thrilled when they were selected this year as the site for the event of the year — the maritime equivalent of the NCAA basketball finals.

Starting this week, 89 teams from around the country have descended on the college’s waterfront campus to compete in a series of regattas that will last 11 days, until June 2.

They came from as far away as Hawaii, and include Stanford, Yale, Harvard, MIT, Bowdoin, Georgetown, Connecticut College and Texas A&M.

“We are so excited to be hosting this event because not only does it showcase Kings Point, but it is also a recruiting tool because I hope some of the sailors’ younger brothers or sisters” will attend the races and get interested in the Merchant Marine Academy, said Vice Admiral Joanna Nunan, the superintendent of the school.

Boats with colorful sails make their way through the waters...

Boats with colorful sails make their way through the waters Thursday off the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point as part of the national collegiate sailing championships.

Credit: Danielle Silverman

“Just in terms of our whole waterfront and sailing history, it is a wonderful place for a race,” she said. “I’ve heard that from all the sailors: ‘We love this. Your facilities are so beautiful. As soon as you leave your dock you are right there on the race course.”

The racing kicked off on Tuesday, the first of four days of competition among all-women’s teams. That will be followed by co-ed team racing and then co-ed regular racing.

Tuesday saw a nice breeze, but on Wednesday the air was dead in the morning and through the early afternoon. Sailors eventually got on the water and got in a few races amid light wind.

Of the 36 teams that competed on Tuesday and Wednesday, half — or 18 — moved on to the finals Thursday and Friday.

The sailors race in two-person fiberglass dinghies called 420s and FJs. They are fast — when there is wind.

On Wednesday, sailors milled about at Kings Point as they waited — and hoped — for the wind to fill in.

Many agreed the location was spectacular. The Throgs Neck Bridge is less than a mile away, and the Manhattan skyline is beyond that. On a pier that juts out onto Long Island Sound, the teams set up sun canopies that they gathered under as they passed the time talking, eating, reading, sleeping or talking strategy.

The pier offers an unusually good view of the races since it is elevated and next to the course. The public is allowed to attend, free of charge.

Michael McBrien, head coach of Kings Point’s dinghy sailing team, said he was impressed with the level of competition so far.

“They are phenomenal athletes,” he said. “They’ve definitely shown they all deserve to be here.”

He added that “it doesn’t get bigger than this. It feels awesome.”

College sailors relax Wednesday on the pier at the United States...

College sailors relax Wednesday on the pier at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point. Credit: Barry Sloan

Sofia Segalla, 20, a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, was with three of her teammates on Wednesday as they waited for the wind to come.

She said there were “no real surprises” so far in the competition — it was tough.

“A lot of us expected a really competitive fleet, and that’s what we are getting,” said Segalla, who grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and now lives in Miami when she isn’t in school.

Many parents of the sailors were also attending. Cindy Karlson said she came down by boat from Mystic, Connecticut.

“It’s exciting to have all the schools together, to watch them compete at such an elite level,” she said. “This is the best of the best.”

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