Acalanes Student Sails His Way Into International Competition

By Gareth Kwok, Sports Editor

// California is a paradise, especially out on the water. It’s almost always a beautiful, sunny day as the sky is a light shade of blue, a few clouds in the air, waves are crashing down against each other and the wind breezes gently. Just another picturesque day in northern California.

   For senior Neil Marcellini, the scene could not be painted any better. Out on the water is where Marcellini picked up a sport inherited through his father and has stuck with it throughout his life. The fascinating part about this, is his sport is typically overlooked: sailing.

   “I started sailing when I was nine because my dad sailed,” Marcellini said. “I participated in a summer camp and then I really liked it. I really enjoyed the sensation and speed of being pushed by the wind.”


Photo taken by Neil Marcellini

   Marcellini sails a 29er, a two-man high performance sailing skiff, at the Richmond Yacht Club in Richmond with his partner Ian Brill, a member of the Mission Bay Yacht Club. Built in 1998, the 29er, also known as a dinghy, is primarily aimed at the youth because of its small size of 14.4 feet compared to the larger 49er. The 29er also offers a simple and unique design and is relatively easier to navigate. At first, however, Marcellini was not a fan of being out on the water.

   “I was really bad at sailing, at first,” he said. “I actually hated it. But I just kept doing it and I was pretty determined. Once I started doing better, I really liked it.”

   It was not until a few years of sailing where he started to think about sailing competitively.

   “When you learn to sail, the coaches push you to race,” Marcellini said. “I started racing and it was really fun. I enjoyed beating my opponents so that’s why I kept sailing.”

   Marcellini is not your typical local competitive sailor; he’s been racing in national competitions around the country and across the world. Early this summer, he was selected as a member of the USA 29er World Travel team, training with Olympic Development Programs in San Francisco, Long Beach, Newport (Rhode Island), and Columbia Gorge (Oregon).

   He competed at the 29er Nationals in Newport from June 27-30, placing third out of 35 competitors. On July 15-17, he and Brill earned second out of 26 boats at the Columbia Gorge Skiff Regatta in Oregon. Then, they traveled all the way to Medemblik, Netherlands on July 24-30 to compete in the 29er World Championships.

   In the Medemblik, they placed ninth with two other USA teams in the qualifiers. Their qualifying results led them to sail in the Gold Fleet, which are the top 50 teams in the tournament. The pair seeded 36th, leading them to be 36th out of all 228 international teams at these championships.

   “The Europeans sailed really differently in the Netherlands,” Marcellini said. “They sailed aggressively and were clumped up a lot. The wind was different there as well so it was very hard for the US boats to do well there.”

   Wind is a key factor in sailing. A sailor has to know where the wind is blowing in order to steer in the right direction and make adjustments. 

   On a side note, Marcellini also talked about the lifestyle of the Netherlands.

   “It was fun because we had a big team from the US,” Marcellini said. “We all stayed together in a house. The food was not very good because they didn’t give you very much. I don’t know. Europe is kind of a weird place.”

   He then came back home to the US to compete in the US Youth Sailing Championships in Coronado from August 5-9. Throughout all the sailing events he competed, there had not been one qualification process. However, the championships in Coronado was a qualifier for the Youth World Championships. Through the first two days of competition, the two of them were in first place, however, eventually seeding second in an intense battle, finishing just two points away from being out on top.

   Even though Marcellini had an action-packed summer, he’s still not done competing.

   “I’m going to the Red Bull Foiling Generation, a youth competition in flying phantom, which are hydrofoiling catamarans. I’ll be going out to Newport again to do that in October,” Marcellini said.

   He also hopes for the future that more people will take a look and try out sailing.

   “Sailing is very fun,” Marcellini said. “It’s very enjoyable and more people should do it. It’s an expensive sport but it is worth it.”

   Marcellini’s summer of sailing across the globe is amazing due to the roots of his father sailing. His relationship with earth’s features is what truly makes Marcellini and sailing an excellent fit for him. It’s just the water, the wind, and a sailboat. And Marcellini is leading the ship.

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