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College of Charleston’s senior skippers battle the wind to bring home a national sailing title

College of Charleston’s senior skippers battle the wind to bring home a national sailing title
September 2021

It's the team’s third championship and first since 2010

Members of the national champion College of Charleston sailing team from left to right: Kiera O’Reardon, Anna Sherry, Emily Essi, Paris Henken, Lucy Klempen, Kelly-Ann Arrindell, Roxy Snyder, Marian Williams, head coach Ward Cromwell, and assistant coach Conner Blouin.

When College of Charleston senior skipper Marian Williams called home to deliver the news that she and the women’s sailing team had won the Intercollegiate Sailing Association Women’s National Championship, her mother was just waking up in Taiwan.

In spite of the 12-hour time difference, Williams, who grew up in Hong Kong, says her mother sometimes stays up late refreshing the regatta scores until one team pulls ahead. However, her mother fell asleep early on the final day of Women’s Nationals, held this May at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. “I really don’t think she thought we were gonna win,” Williams says, “because on the second day we were down by quite a bit.”

Eighteen schools competed in a series of 16 races over two days in this year’s Women’s Nationals. Teams earned points based on how they placed in each race: one point for first place, two for second, and so on, meaning the team with the lowest score won.

Snyder and Williams.

Entering the second day, College of Charleston was lagging 27 points behind Boston College and battling light breezes. “You’re not going as quickly,” Williams explains, “so it gives you a lot of time to freak out about what’s happening.” As a skipper, Williams steered the boat and had final say on all decisions, but she says the input of her crew mate, sophomore Roxy Snyder, helped her stay calm and confident while trying to overcome less-than-ideal conditions.

Thanks to the efforts of senior Paris Henken, who skippered alongside freshman crew Lucy Klempen in A-division, and Williams, who skippered alongside Snyder in B-division, the Cougars slowly but surely pulled ahead. The championship came down to the final race, with College of Charleston (201) beating out Tulane (202) by a single point.

This victory marked the Cougar’s third women’s national championship win and the first since 2010. For Williams and Henken, the Cougars’ victory provided the picture-perfect close to their collegiate sailing careers. “I was over the moon,” says Henken.

Natasha Scott-Morton and Williams.

Because she took time off to compete in the 2016 Olympics, Henken has a year left of school but isn’t eligible to race, though she’s hoping to help out the team. Through sailing, she’s learned that communication can make or break a race. “It’s taught me that good teamwork on and off the water makes champions,” she says.

For Williams, who graduated this spring with a 4.0 GPA for her double major in arts management and history, a break from the stress of competition is a welcome change. Even when on shore, she says her life is shaped by the lessons she’s learned sailing, including to trust your gut and to brush off negativity, whether it’s a bad race or a rough day. Though she may no longer be racing, Williams foresees plenty of recreational sailing in her future: “I think it’s gonna be part of my life forever.”