Charlie graduated from Brown University in 2008. He is a four time ICSA All-American, who now works and sails professionally for North Sails® in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Visit him and the experts at the Portsmouth North Sails loft to see how they can help you with any of your sail making, sail repair, and other sailing needs. See what they can do for you today!
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What did you enjoy most about College Sailing? What did you enjoy least?
What I enjoyed most about college sailing was definitely all of the competition from week to week, and the time I spent on and off the water with my teammates. At Brown, we had a very deep team and a great coach. Having those two things made the experience that much more enjoyable for me.
In terms of things I liked least about college sailing, I certainly don’t think it hurts you, but you don’t spend a lot of time working on things like tuning, sail trim, or boat speed. Everything is much more about kinetics, starting, and positioning your boat effectively on the racecourse.
How would you advise an aspiring high school sailor on selecting their collegiate program, or whether or not they should participate at all?
If you’re on the fence about sailing in college, you should just give it a try. It really can’t hurt. When you are making the decision, spend as much time around the teams you are looking at as possible. Try to get an idea of how you fit in with that group’s atmosphere.
Another big factor is deciding how much you want to sail or not sail in the starting lineup. Some people will go to a really strong program and run the risk of not getting any looks, or not getting to go to the big events for at least a couple of years. Other people want to go to a smaller program and be “the guy”. They go in with the attitude that they will take some digs early, but will figure it out later. There is something to be said for each, so it’s something need to decide for yourself.
What is the biggest thing a high school sailor should be aware of about sailing in college before they make the transition from high school?
Your success or failure as a sailor in college will primarily fall on your time management skills. It is hard to do everything well. Our coach used to say that you have to balance sailing, school, and social life, and you can only do two of them well. If you do all three, your work in all of them will be mediocre at best. In the end, you will either figure it out or you won’t. Just try to make the most educated decisions that you can.
How important has college sailing been to developing your career, and helping you become a professional sailor?
When I sail on bigger boats, college sailing has prepared me best for working at the helm or as a tactician. After the experience in college, it is much easier to look back and get a quick snap shot of the fleet, and know how to put yourself into a more advantageous position on the course. However, college sailing did not really prepare me for any position on a boat where I was responsible for things like sail trim or boat speed. Again, I don’t think it hurts, but you have to find the time and opportunities to get that practice elsewhere.
Following the 2012 Olympic Games, the college sailing system has come under a great deal of criticism in its development of professional and Olympic sailors. What is your take on college sailing’s role in the system?
First of all, not everyone in college sailing wants to go to the Olympics or make a career out of sailing. I think 99% of the people participating value their education, more than the sailing itself, and will go off into the “real world”.
I think the biggest problem sailors run into is not in the college sailing, but how they spend their off seasons, particularly summer vacation. People tend to do a lot less sailing then and get summer jobs coaching, relaxing, etc. The bottom line is that the summer in particular is a great time to explore different kinds of racing, and fill in the deficiencies that college sailing doesn’t really touch on. Nothing beats time on the water, and people need to start taking advantage of those months you have off.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to future college sailors?
You have to be all in and understand that you will have to make sacrifices. Succeeding in sailing is about being good at working hard. Sailing is just a medium for that.