by Whitney Noble
For the second time this week, a national championship came down to the final race for the College of Charleston sailing team, but with a much better outcome for the Cougars as they claimed victory in the final two races on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018, to secure the program’s second straight LaserPerformance Team Race National Championship.
“The team had a really good mentality through all of nationals practice and managed to put the right number of hours in the water,” said senior Stefano Peschiera, who skippered one of the College’s three team racing boats. “I am extremely proud of how we have managed to stay fresh and keep our level up throughout all of the three long, hot days. This result could not have been possible without the incredible help from the coaches and the rest of our team on shore.”
The Cougars captured their second consecutive LaserPerformance Team Race National Championship, and third in program history with a 20/5 record after going 2-1 in the top four with wins against Roger Williams and Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The sailors entered Monday’s top four in first place with an 18/4 record after cruising through round one (14/1) and taking four of seven races in the top eight on Saturday and Sunday. Roger Williams, Hobart and William Smith, and Georgetown were forced into a sail-off after a weather delay. Roger Williams took second, Hobart and William Smith finished third, and Georgetown placed fourth.
Peschiera, Christophe Killian, and Augie Dale skippered for the Cougars, with Grace McCarthy, Katie Lounsbury, and Elizabeth Pemberton crewing. Annabel Carrington, Carter Cameron, and Oliver Parsons served as alternates.
After dropping a tough race to Georgetown and a Hobert and William Smith win over Roger Williams to open the top 4 round, the Cougars went into their final two races needing two wins to guarantee their second straight title.
A quick start by Hobart and William Smith in the second race of the day had the Cougars trailing early, but Charleston’s experienced group refused to let that deter them. The Cougars would close the gap in the final sprint and put one boat across in second to give themselves an opening. With Hobart and William Smith seemingly in cruise control in third and fourth, Dale put on a burst of speed on the right side of the fleet and cut inside of the Statesmen’s third-place boat at the line to give the Cougars the race win.
The Cougars saved their start of the day for the final race and jumped out to an early lead. Roger Williams made a late charge, but Charleston’s boat handling proved to be too much for the Hawks in the final sprint. With Roger Williams angling for a hole through the middle of the fleet, a coordinated move by two Cougar boats cutting in from the left and right in the final stretch to deny the Hawks at the line with a 1-2-4 national championship-sealing win.
“We have a brief celebration ahead if us before the semifinals of Coed Nationals tomorrow,” added Peschiera. “I will give my all during these next few days in what will be my last week of college sailing ever!”
The Cougars will look to complete their defense of their Fowle Trophy (college sailing’s overall best team) from a season ago in the Gill Coed National Championship, which begins on Tuesday with a two-day semifinal. Should the Cougars advance, they will sail for the national championship in the two-day finals on Thursday and Friday.
For scores and up to date information, log onto collegesailing.org.
Feature photo by Colin Grey Voigt.