No Smooth Seas Made a Skilled Sailor

While last spring clearly brought some disappointment for the class of 2020 I caught up with some of the 2020 grads in October and was so pleased to see how well they are doing in spite of the difficult year. All are positive and pursuing their path’s with intention and passion. 

Restarting the program this fall has been a big effort.  After a 212 day delay, which included a battery of testing and reams of paperwork, we finally had all of our t’s crossed and I’s dotted and were able to get back on the water.  Rejoining us this year after an intense Olympic Campaign is Paris Henken.  She’s brought great energy and maturity with her and it’s shown in practices. Coming back into college after a long break has been an adjustment, most of her original classmates have graduated, but she’s taken on leadership roles on and off the water.  Jack Brown, Marian Williams and Noelle Owen are returning All Americans that are setting a high bar for the rest of the team. 

Our incoming freshmen class is certainly a resilient bunch that is full of promise.  Amongst the incoming class we have 3 National Champions, Kalea Woodard won HS Nationals  as A Division crew for Pt Loma HS, Lucas Sawin won the Full Rig division at HS Nationals in 2019 and Max Anker won the US Youth Championships in the I420 class in 2017. In addition to these 13 others passionate players to the varsity roster as well as some really solid sailors on the Development Team. 

The Offshore Team, having come off a Championship at last year’s Kennedy Cup has been working on passing down knowledge from one generation to the next.  With many of our key members from the Kennedy Cup team already graduated or part of this year’s class it’s critical that we use this year wisely to maintain a strong base of corporate knowledge.  Senior Team Captain Willy Comerford has been working hard to make sure this occurs.  After bouncing back from a bout of Covid in September Willy has done a lot of work with Co Captain Caroline Williams to get the younger members of the team fully up to speed.

We’ve been meeting a lot more on Zoom and doing things a bit differently this fall but it’s been great to feel the intensity and hope our freshmen bring to the team.  Interestingly with social distancing being so seriously adhered to on campus one of the most common goals we recorded this season was “Getting to know my team mates

Although competition wasn’t in the cards this fall we are hopeful that we can jump back into things in the Spring. There are plans in the works, to host Singlehanded and Dinghy National Championships in May. Competition leading up to the Nationals still needs to be settled but with promising news and the fact that the College is starting athletic competition in a couple weeks with the basketball teams it’s looking like we are going to be racing again this Spring.

Education and Access: Two Key Components of What We Provide Here at CofC Sailing

Summer camps for kids were almost completely booked this year.  We spread kids out with indoor and outdoor classroom space to maximize distancing while not on the water.  Temporary tents set up each day and lots of swimming during breaks kept kids fresh cool when at the center.  Feedback was phenomenal and we couldn’t have been prouder of our team.  We had 8 volunteers helping throughout the summer and 5 paid instructors.  Teaching on the J-22’s allows for a wonderful hands on experience for youth sailors of a wide range skill and ages.

Adult classes were also popular in the spring and early summer and this fall’s PE courses filled up in the second half of the semester.  Next semester is filling up quickly as well.  I’ll note that this course is no gimme.  I helped correct finals last semester really was challenged by some of the questions on their exams.  It’s a class we have been teaching for over 40 years and it’s never been an easy A. 

Joel Bays our director of community outreach has led a strong charge to increase memberships by reaching out to former members and folks that have taken our adult and youth courses in the past few years. He’s been booking check rides and private lessons all summer and throughout the fall and has built up our base. Even at over 100 members it’s rare that all our J-22’s are out so if you or friends in the Charleston area would like to get more time on the water please let us know.  This is a great way to support our program while enjoying the beauty of the Charleston Harbor. 

Outside of the normal programs we have a few interesting things happening in the coming year.  We are set to host the National Hospice Alliance Championship Regatta early in June which is attended by the winners of regional Hospice events.  These sailors are not only talented but dedicated to a great cause. This event is kind of a thank you to them for their dedication and Charleston was chosen as a treat for the teams to enjoy. This year we are working more closely with the regional Hospice organization to have a fundraiser at this event but also to develop plans for a local Hospice regatta, something we don’t currently have. 

Progress Being Made   

Progress has been made recently with the addition of a new fleet of Z420’s arriving from Portugal. These seem to be much more solid than the previous fleet.  Although we have some modifications to make  We hope they will prove to be reliable workhorses for years to come.  Last year we upgraded our outboards and now run exclusively Yamaha’s.  We are planning to work with the Carolina Yacht Club to purchase a matching set of race sails for our J-22’s and theirs this year.  Next year we are scheduling the replacement of the FJ fleet which is now 7 years old.

While our fleets require update and attention our facility does as well. Last year our facility celebrated it’s 20th anniversary. Prior to this we had begun a campaign to raise $500k to put toward updates and repairs to the center.  I’m happy to report that a $100,000 matching challenge gift has been met.  Provided by the Perry family subsequent to Claire’s graduation in 2019, family and friends of the class of 2019 compiled $50,000 and over $50,000 in gifts from other donors came in over the past 18 months.   In addition to this the College has committed to providing $100,000 in funding and to make things a bit better FEMA came through with nearly $80,000 of insurance funds to address specific repairs. We are still have work to do to meet our goal but are putting plans in motion to repair floatation under the main facility, replace the Laser dock, increase awning coverage and install improved connections off of the main facility dock.

This summer we were honored through the creation of the Mary Ann Donaldson Hay Memorial Fund to support Women’s Sailing at the College of Charleston. Mary Ann grew up sailing right here off of the shores of Mt Pleasant where the team practices regularly. Her father and uncle built their own boats and some of her fondest memories were of sailing here as a child.  The Hay family is a fixture here in Charleston, Mary Ann’s son David is the Chair for the Board of Trustees at the College.  We are humbled by this but also find it such a great fit to keep Mary Ann’s memory present and alive.

We are currently looking for a lead donation for this year’s race to the Match which has become an annual tradition for us.  This year we are going to run it in conjunction with the CofC Day celebration on January 18th. Gifting prior to year’s end can be accepted as part of this campaign. If you are interested in filling an important role by providing a matching challenge gift, are interested in making a gift of any amount, want to learn more about how our foundation accounts support our programs please reach out to me at any time.    

So often it’s difficult to pull yourself above the fray to see the long road ahead. It’s good to write this report and reflect on all of the positives we have going for the program right now.  Keep us in your thoughts as we navigate the challenges ahead. Staying healthy might be the biggest hurdle, hopefully we can accomplish this and find ourselves competing for another set of National Championships come May.