Red Tide has descended upon us. But this is no devastating scourge on the local clam population. At Bowdoin, Red Tide means the annual Red Tide Clambake Ultimate Frisbee Tournament, which is being held this weekend at the Farley athletic fields.
The tournament, now in its 22nd year, is organized by the Portland Red Tide, a top-level ultimate team in Maine. The Red Tide invites New England's best club ultimate teams to compete on the home field of the Stoned Clown, Bowdoin's own men's ultimate team.
"It's a tournament for really good club teams, teams that are generally not all college kids," said Stoned Clown captain Adit Basheer '11. "If there were ever a professional frisbee league, these would be the people playing in it."
In addition to Red Tide, which Basheer described as "the face of Maine frisbee," a Bowdoin alumni team and top ultimate teams from around the northeast will compete.
"Slow White, the top-seeded mixed team in the country, is playing," said captain Jon Coravos '11. "The quality of play, particularly in the championship rounds on Sunday, is excellent."
The the Red Tide Clambake will include three divisions of competition—open (men's), mixed (coed) and women's—and it employs the same structure as many ultimate tournaments. Teams begin with pool play, facing off against four opponents on Saturday. A team's performance in pool play is then used to determine seeding in Sunday's single-elimination championship bracket.
Due to a Saturday scheduling conflict, the men's division will open pool play at the fairgrounds in Cumberland, Maine. The teams will then return to Bowdoin for the championship round on Sunday.
Stoned Clown is one of only a few college teams in the tournament, and the majority of participating squads are club teams made up of college graduates.
"Colby was there last year, but not many college teams get to go to this tournament," said Basheer.
Not only is appearing in the Red Tide Clambake a unique opportunity for the ultimate team, but the high level of competition provides a chance for Stoned Clown to test itself against elite teams such as Red Tide.
"Red Tide is going to be one of our stronger opponents," said Basheer. "Many of the teams will be better than us, but it's a good experience because it gives us the chance to gauge ourselves and see how we need to improve."
"It's not out of the question that we could beat a team like them," he added.
Basheer was also excited by the prospect of going up against the Bowdoin alumni team, a chance to compete with his former teammates.
"We take a lot of pride in playing our alumni team," he said. "They're the better players that played while at Bowdoin, and now you want to beat them."
The tournament utilizes a bid process for teams interested in participating, meaning squads apply by pledging some sort of contribution. For example, Stoned Clown offers use of the Farley fields as its bid.
However, these bids have varied widely in the past. Teams may make donations to the featured charity—the Special Olympics of Maine is expected to receive a donation of $10,000 from the tournament this year—while others offer to help set up fields, prepare meals or clean up after the event. Some teams tend to be more creative than others.
"Harvard cooks breakfast in drag every year," said Coravos.
Although the Red Tide Clambake serves as the final tournament of the year for many of the participating teams, the season will continue for Bowdoin ultimate. In addition to this weekend, Stoned Clown will host its annual tournament, the Frozen Butter Ball, in November.
Tournament play in the fall against club teams serves as an opportunity to practice for the upcoming spring season, when Bowdoin ultimate competes against regional college teams.
"The spring season has much more structure than the fall season," said Basheer. "The fall is focused on getting first years involved in the sport. We're a 50-person squad—the A-team has 20 players—and we play in several tournaments around Maine."
"It's about building fitness, team chemistry, and maintaining our skills through scrimmages," said Coravos.
Yet improving team play through tournaments like the Red Tide Clambake is only one goal that Basheer and Coravos have for Bowdoin ultimate.
"Our biggest thing, and the captains agree on this, is to get more exposure for the teams that are playing," said Basheer. "We want to get everyone playing where the level of competition is better."
Both captains also emphasized the importance of the Red Tide tournament to Bowdoin ultimate, and Maine ultimate on a larger scale.
"It's a historically significant tournament, in terms of the history of frisbee in Maine since it's run by Red Tide," said Basheer. "You'll see teams that are very competitive, and our team will take the tournament very seriously."
"If you have never seen frisbee before, this is an opportunity to see one of the coolest frisbee tournaments in the country," said Coravos.