Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Published on June 1st, 2017

There are few victories in sailing where the accomplishment is notably bigger than the sailors that win it. College sailing is the exception, where success comes from the reserves pushing the starters, the legacy provided by alumni, and the support of the coaches and school.

College Nationals is the annual crescendo of the season, and Sarah Wilkinson tries to explain the emotion felt by her College of Charleston team after they won the biggest team event of them all.


Team Race Nationals are the Super Bowl of college sailing and the team I’m a part of just won it. Everyone knew what we had done the moment we beat Georgetown, except for junior skipper, Christophe Killian, who was not aware that we had just clinched another national title.

Everyone was yelling congratulations and freaking out and Christophe just looked at the media boat confused. I yelled that Yale had lost to Boston College and because we had beat Georgetown, we won. His face quickly went from confused to euphoria pretty quickly.

No one really knew whether to lose their minds in excitement or break down crying. I made the decision to jump up and down and lose my voice. Those sailing hugged and kind of looked around wondering if what we just accomplished was true. We still, however, had to race one more match against Yale, our toughest competitor by far.

They had won the event four years in a row and they have a strong team, but we were able to beat Yale in this last race and our coaches brought all of us on land out to the finish line to congratulate our team. Jumping in the water was a surreal moment for all of us, and doing it in the middle of Charleston Harbor was almost too perfect.

The water was warm and the sun was shining. Looking around and just being surrounded by my fellow team members was picturesque. There was so much movement and I have never seen my team so happy before. There were backflips off 420’s, cannonballs off coach boats and most importantly, hugs all around.

Junior Captain Elizabeth Pemberton later said to me that she knew she would cry, but it was only a matter of when. Turns out she cried in her car and said that it was tears of relief that the countless 3am flights from JFK, workouts and practices were all worth it. She went on to say that she was unaware of their standing going into the Georgetown race and that it hasn’t really sunken in yet, even though she has a trophy to prove it.

This win was the accumulation of a years worth of hard work and dedication. Winning a title like this is a team effort. Myself, and most of my team, did not sail in the 2017 College Team Race Nationals but we all know that it was a group effort to get us here.

Our coaches reminded us of that fact during our debrief, saying that everyday on the water during practice we push ourselves to be better and think smarter. We all have sacrificed so much for our program and this is the best reward anyone could have asked for.

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