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Submitted by Max Plarr
Senior Captain of the Sailing Team at Christopher Newport University and Corinthian Member of Hampton Yacht Club Vir Menon has had a historic journey over his last four years in Hampton Roads. Menon was discovered through an international recruiting company and via email, a skype interview, and an application over four years ago he took a leap of faith and became a Captain destined for a university on the other side of the world. Vir was born in India and was looking to pursue a degree and compete in collegiate sailing. His main discipline in the sport was the Laser class, coming out of Optis he started training in the 4.7 rig and graduated up to the Radial, and eventually the men’s class Full rig.
Vir’s freshmen and sophomore years were spent training and working towards building his body to compete. During his junior year he had broken through! Finishing fourth he would be the first CNU sailor to qualify for a berth at the 2018 ICSA Singlehanded National Championship in November at Macatawa Bay Yacht Club on Lake Michigan. Vir finished thirteenth, our goal was top ten. Sailing at that level can be mentally draining, and it is an area that we have worked on extensively over the past year. As 2018 Singlehanded Nationals came to a close Vir and his teammates focused on the spring team race season ahead and the America Trophy. At the close of the spring he also was awarded the MAISA Sportsman of the Year Award, arguably the highest honor a sailor from our conference could receive.
Vir worked for HYC this past summer and trained as hard as he could with his teammates leading up to the MAISA Nationals Qualifier hosted by the Naval Academy Sept. 21-22. As a coach you can prepare and control many things but one thing that you cannot account for is sickness. Saturday morning of the qualifier Vir had a soar throat, coughing, and was all around feeling pretty crummy. The first race Vir did not have a great start and had to bail to the right side of the course. However, the right side filled and he was first at the weather mark, the prospects for the weekend were looking good despite him being sick. However, after six races the meds had worn off and fatigue was setting in with two races two go that day. A 15th and a 16th. This was not good. We were going to be on the outside looking in with six races to go on Sunday. A coach wears many hats, and Saturday evening it was time to be the doctor. Vir’s family was in Annapolis for support, and together we fed him, medicated him, and pretty much knew that a good night’s sleep was his only hope. Well rested –but still not 100%, Vir charged into Sunday.
The racing was super tight, top guys were up and down all regatta. Going into the last race the odds were so stacked against him. He could have won the race but other boats would have to finish just right and if you have to match race one or two boats, you still can’t control the outcome of an entire race. He was twelve points out of qualifying, so he would need to finish at least twelve boats in front of Luke Welker from King’s Point, was the boat in fifth place and the last qualifying berth going into race fourteen. Next, he would need to break a tie by finishing in front of George Washington’s Cameron Feves. On top of that he would need to beat Hobart and William Smith freshmen and 2018 Cressi National High School Singlehanded Champion Colin Porter by at least four boats, and Naval Academy’s Conner Bayless had to be beaten by at least nine boats. As I sat in the coach boat, I wish I could say I never doubted him, but my heart sank, knowing that we had worked so hard and so long for four years to let essentially sickness overcome. The bad races he posted throughout the regatta really was when the brain seemed to be in autopilot mode, just trying to get the boat around the race course while fighting a low grade fever. He was making mistakes I never saw him make.
Vir put everything into the last race knowing that if he didn’t qualify it would be his last college laser regatta. He finished the race fourth, and he pointed his bow back towards the Naval Academy head hung knowing the odds had to be incredible. He honestly didn’t know what was about to play out behind him. On the coach boat, myself and the other coaches were watching the final battles ensue. What played to our advantage was that Conner Bayless was only three points out of qualifying and trying to push Welker to the back of the fleet. Colin Porter had a string of mid-fleet finishes all day and was kicking his boat and cursing, I could tell he was not going to have a good finish. Cameron, who Vir was tied with, went left, the side that didn’t pay all day and was behind. The stars were inconceivably aligning, Vir was through the finish but the race and the regatta was not over. Bayless forced Welker into last place but did not get the boats in between that he needed. Forcing the match race allowed the points gap to open up. Vir sailed the best race and had enough of a gap even finishing in fourth to make up the points with a two-point difference! My jaw dropped. It actually happened! He pulled it off. I was in shock. As the final results posted, there it was Vir Menon: 121, Luke Welker 123, Conner Bayless 124, Colin Porter 127, and Cameron Feves 129. The Captains were going back to Nationals!!!
The coach boat sped up alongside, “You did it!” I shouted with tears of joy as reality finally hit! Like a wave crashed over him he collapsed in his boat with excitement and joy. UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Yacht Club will play host to the 2019 ICSA Singlehanded National Championship November 8-10.