Sailing dynasty: College of Charleston captures prestigious national award for sixth time

All-American sailors Dodge Rees and Tierney Driscoll helped the College of Charleston claim its sixth Fowle Trophy this year.

Charleston named best sailing team for second time in four years

By Luke Reasoner

lreasoner@postandcourier.com

Aside from teaching clinics here in Charleston, one coach has already been to Chicago and San Francisco; another has gone to Ohio and will go to Great Britain; while a third one is preparing to compete in a world championship event in Ontario, Canada, in two weeks.

So while everyone else spends their summer days relaxing on sun-drenched beaches or lounging poolside, the coaches of the College of Charleston sailing team never take too much time away from teaching and participating in the sport they love.

It is that devotion that has helped mold the College of Charleston sailing team into a perennial powerhouse over the years — and the 2014-15 season was no different.

For the sixth time in school history, the College of Charleston won the Leonard B. Fowle Trophy, awarded annually to the best overall sailing team in the country based on finishes at national championships. The Cougars also won in 1986, ’88, ’98, ’07 and ’12.

“It was a nice surprise to find out that we had won the Fowle Trophy,” head coach Ward Cromwell said. “We had some great results in the fall national championships, including Stefano Peschiera’s singlehanded nationals victory. Our team sailed well throughout the entire spring nationals and deserve to be enthused about the results.”

With its sixth Fowle Trophy, College of Charleston trails only the U.S. Navy (10) and Tufts University (8) in number of times it has won the prestigious award.

“It was a superb year for our team,” said director of sailing Greg Fisher, who has helped guide the Cougars to two Fowle Trophies since joining the school in 2010. “The team sailed great in the early spring events and coaches Ward and (assistant coach) Mitch Hall worked hard to maintain a strong but sustainable pace throughout the season leading to the nationals.”

Added College of Charleston director of athletics Joe Hull, “Winning the (Leonard B.) Fowle Trophy as the overall national champion in collegiate sailing is a tremendous accomplishment. It is a source of pride for every member of this year’s team and for anyone who has ever sailed at The College. Congratulations to our coaches and student-athletes on another great season.”

The success started in November as Peschiera helped the Cougars set the tone for the season after he captured the Glen S. Foster Trophy for winning the ICSA men’s singlehanded nationals. He is just the sixth sailor in school history to win the men’s singlehanded event.

Buoyed with Peschiera’s victory, the Cougars produced top 5 finishes at national championships — fourth at the coed dinghy and team race; fifth at the match race and women’s — to help cap off one of its best seasons ever.

“We are proud of our overall performance throughout the 2014-15 season,” assistant coach Mitch Hall said. “Our hard work and strength in all the disciplines was illustrated by top finishes at both the fall and spring nationals.”

Senior Clerc Cooper was one of the six women skippers to earn All-American honors this year. In the fall she finished eighth at the women’s singlehanded nationals, and in the spring she helped lead the women’s team to a fifth-place finish at the women’s nationals.

“The cohesion that the team had this year was definitely something that I hadn’t really felt before,” Cooper said. “I sort of felt it my freshman year, but it’s a little hard to sense that as a freshman since you don’t know the difference. But the team had a very special bond this year.”

The New Orleans native is attending law school at Tulane University after she graduated summa cum laude in the spring with a double major in History and African American studies. She was also honored as a co-winner of the J. Stewart Walker Cup, given out by the College of Charleston athletic department for outstanding leadership each year.

“Winning the Fowle Trophy my freshman and senior year was a pretty cool way to bookend my college sailing career,” Cooper said.

Ali Blumenthal, Jake Reynolds and Tierney Driscoll were also named All-Americans this year, while Dodge Rees earned honorable mention honors. Blumenthal became just the second crew in school history to be named All-American three times.

So while losing three All-Americans — Cooper, Blumenthal and Discoll ­­— to graduation will be a tough void to fill, Cromwell is confident the Cougars will still be the team to beat next season.

“With many key players returning to the lineup next fall, the varsity dinghy team is excited to get back on the water and we are looking forward to capitalizing on the things we have learned this year.”

Follow Luke Reasoner on Twitter @lukereasoner