The Rose Bowl Regatta might not be the most prestigious event on the fall calendar for the College of Charleston sailing team.

But it might be one of the most important regattas for the Cougars.

Nearly 25 percent — 11 of the 45 team members of the College of Charleston’s nationally-ranked men’s and women’s sailing program – hail from the state of California, and the regatta serves as a major recruiting hub for the Cougars coaching staff.

The third-ranked Cougars will take part in the Rose Bowl Regatta from Jan. 5-6 at Alamitos Bay near Los Angeles. The regatta is loosely affiliated with the Rose Bowl football game.

Like any collegiate sport, the Cougars sailing team relies heavily on a strong recruiting base. And there’s no more fertile recruiting area in the nation for prospective sailing team members than in California.

“For the fall season, there are a lot bigger regattas than the Rose Bowl, but for us, it has becomes so important because of the potential for recruiting,” Cougars head coach Ward Cromwell said. “There are a lot of talented kids in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, so this gives us a chance to recruit those kids.

“Not only are college teams competing, but it’s a huge high school event as well. If we’re going to compete on a national scale, we’ve got to have a presence there.”

For College of Charleston senior skipper Ben Spector, a native of Long Beach, Calif., it’s a chance to sail at home. Spector helped lead the Cougars to a first-place finish at the Navy Fall Intersectional regatta this October as a skipper in the A-Division. The Cougars beat top-ranked Georgetown and No. 2 Yale in the 18-team field.

“It’s kind of a tradition for me because I’ve been taking part in this regatta since I was a freshman in high school,” Spector said. “It’s kind of a family reunion for me. They have a big high school recruiting event the night before the regatta and the College of Charleston is out every year trying to recruit kids from this area to Charleston.”

It was during one of those high school Rose Bowl regatta events that Cougars senior skipper Mac Mace, a Newport Beach, Calif., native, got his first real exposure to the College of Charleston.

“It was my first chance to meet the coaches and get more information about the school,” Mace said. “It was kind of an open mic night. An opportunity for me to see what the College of Charleston had to offer and get more information than just what you’d find on the internet or on their website. I’m not sure I would have gone to Charleston if it hadn’t been for the regatta.”

Mace said racing in the waters in California will be different than what they’ve been used to in Charleston and in regattas on the East Coast.

“There’s a lot more open water because we’re usually racing in rivers and it’s a pretty confined space,” Mace said. “When we race in the Charleston harbor the currents are a lot tougher and you don’t get that as much in Alamitos Bay.”

Both Spector and Mace said there was a slight lifestyle adjustment period coming from Southern California to the Lowcountry.

“Coming to Charleston is the best decision I could have made,” Spector said. “It’s a great program that competes at the highest level in sailing.

“It’s a beautiful city. Everyone is so nice. They walk around and say, ‘hello’ in Charleston. When I’m back home you keep your head down and don’t say anything to anybody. It actually takes me a while to get used to not saying ‘hello’ to complete strangers on the street like I do in Charleston.’ ”