Like a lot of college coaches across the country, College of Charleston sailing director Kevin Jewett will be left wondering “what might have been” if the coronavirus pandemic hadn’t hit in the spring.
After a strong fall season, the Cougars were again seen as a legitimate contender at this year’s 2020 ICSA National Championships, which would have been held on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans in late May. Coming out of the fall season, the Cougars were ranked third in the Sail1Design, while Sailing World had Charleston fifth in the women’s and ninth in the co-ed rankings early in the spring season.
The College of Charleston sailing team has won both the Intercollegiate Dinghy National Championships and the Leonard B. Fowle Trophy – awarded annually to the best overall sailing team in the nation – as recently as 2017. Only three other teams have ever won both honors in the same year. The Cougars have captured the Fowle Trophy in 1988, 1998, 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2018 and finished second three times.
With six All-Americans on the roster, including four-time All-American Alie Toppa, Jewett felt the Cougars would have been in the mix for a third Fowle Trophy in the last four years.
“The kids have had such a great attitude about everything after the season was canceled because of the pandemic,” said Jewett, who has been the Cougars’ sailing director since the fall of 2018. “They didn’t complain, they kept their chins up and carried on.”
Over the weekend, six College of Charleston sailors were honored as Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association All-Americans, with Toppa collecting her fourth consecutive All-America award. Senior Steven Leuck (coed), Katie Lounsbury (crew), Jack Brown (coed), Marian Williams (women’s) and freshman Noelle Owen (crew) all received All-American recognition.
“We had such a great group and they all were very deserving,” Jewett said. “The number of kids that were honored was pretty awesome. It was a difficult year for sports in general, and for us as a team. There were some weighty expectations with all the years of success we’ve had recently and I thought the entire team really pushed each other to produce another spectacular season that featured wins in multiple championship level events and a national championship for the offshore team.”
Toppa was in the midst of another spectacular season prior to the pandemic. She recorded a 20-point win in her final collegiate regatta at the Navy Spring Women’s in March.
“She is such an athletic sailor,” Jewett said. “She’s not just a great athlete, it’s the way she sees the race course. She likes to push herself as far as learning new things. On any given day, Allie will go sailing, surfing, kiteboarding and then skateboard.
“It’s not just the sailing part of it, it all blends together so when she gets on the water, she’s feeling things and has an awareness that separates her from the rest of the field.”
Lounsbury secured ICSA All-American crew honors for a third straight season. The Jensen Beach, Fla., native helped the Cougars to four regatta victories this season, including the team’s 20-point win at the Navy Spring Women’s in March.
Charleston head coach Ward Cromwell felt like the Cougars were beginning to find a rhythm before the season was cut short in mid-March by the pandemic.
“The truth of it is, we were in a really good spot, everyone was excited,” Cromwell said. “We had a refined plan and all we had to do was execute. It’s hard to express how excited I was to watch them compete in New Orleans. Our ceiling was very high and our trajectory were rocketing up.”
CofC sailing association offers camps, lessons
The College of Charleston Sailing Association has been providing easy access to sailing on Charleston Harbor for the past four decades.
Membership into the Sailing Association allows use of the College’s fleets of J/22 keelboats, Lasers, FJs, or 420 dinghies without the headaches of boat ownership.
The association offers classes on learning to sail, and has youth camps, adult classes and private lessons for all ages.
“We are practicing all the social distancing protocols and this is a safe way to get out on the water and have some fun,” Jewett said.
For more information: www.sailing.cofc.edu.
Reach Andrew Miller at 843-937-5599. Follow him on Twitter @APMILLER_PandC