Personal Best: Young sailor set to rule the high seas 

The first ever national championship for the Cal Maritime Academy sailing team coincided with the 18th birthday of its mainsail trimmer.

The job of freshman Matt Van Rensselaer was “to make sure that the boat was going fast all the time,” as the eight-sailor team won the annual Kennedy Cup in Annapolis, Md., last November.

As the Intercollegiate Sailing Big Boat champions, Van Rensselaer and his teammates won the right to represent the United States in the annual Student Yachting World Cup in France this October.

“Being from the Bay Area, a very heavy weather venue, we’re good at sailing in thick breeze,” Van Rensselaer said. “On the second day, the wind was cranking, and we ended up winning four out of five races on that day.”

The Cal Maritime cadet began racing Club Flying Juniors in 2002 with the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation out of Redwood City. The 2009 Burlingame High graduate sailed all four years of high school.

Van Rensselaer and Brian Malouf won the Club 420 Bay Area Youth Sailing summer series in 2007 and 2008. With the successive championships, the duo won the coveted Paul Cayard Perpetual Trophy.

Racing together in the 29er National Championships in Santa Cruz in 2007, the duo came in sixth place. Van Rensselaer competed in dozens of regattas with Brian’s brother, Tim, including a fourth-place finish in the 2008 Cardinal Regatta, sponsored by Stanford University.

Although having never suffered the effects of seasickness, Van Rensselaer has recently experienced pain in the abdominal regions. Only a short while removed from a late January emergency appendectomy, the sailor was already planning his return to the water.

Van Rensselaer is confident that he’ll be trimming and grinding the main sail for his team at the March 12-14 Harbor Cup. The Vallejo-based Cal Maritime co-hosts the annual offshore collegiate sailing event with the Los Angeles Yacht Club. As the first West Coast team to carry the U.S. flag in the Student Yachting World Cup, the trip to France falls outside of the state school’s athletic budget, and donations are needed.

“We’re going to use the Harbor Cup as a fundraising effort for the World Cup,” Van Rensselaer said.

The marine transportation major looks forward to post-collegiate life on the high seas.

“On campus they call us deckies,” Van Rensselaer said. “We work on the deck side of the boat. The other option would be in the engineering room.”

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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