Wando sailors heading to nationals

Wando sailors (from left) Cameron Gise, Rebecca Bonner, Austin Ando, Carter Cameron, coach Becky Bestoso, Henry Frenzel, Hunter Moore and Carolina Maine are pictured at the South Atlantic Interscholastic Sailing Association District Championship where the team qualified for the nationals. Photo provided.

It’s been a long time, but a Charleston-area school will finally be competing in the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) National Championship this weekend at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Wando earned the fourth and final qualifying spot at the South Atlantic Interscholastic Sailing Association (SAISA) District Championships held in April in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will join 19 other schools from around the country competing for the national title.

“This is the first year our team has been deep enough to perform on (the national) level,” said fifth-year Wando coach Becky Bestoso.

“It’s been a very hard, long process of building a team that’s competitive. We’re really excited to represent Charleston sailing.”

Wando is only the third Charleston-area school to qualify for the nationals, and the first since 2007 when James Island Charter High School qualified. Academic Magnet also has qualified.

“This is huge. We try every single year. We’re probably in the toughest division in the country,” said Ryan Hamm, who is the vice president of SAISA and coaches James Island. SAISA is divided into two divisions, with North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia comprising the North, and Florida and the Caribbean comprising the South, and it’s difficult to earn one of the four spots against the South division.

Wando has 20 students on its roster. Bestoso will be taking seven sailors to participate in the National Championship — seniors Rebecca Bonner, Carter Cameron and Henry Frenzel, juniors Cameron Gise and Hunter Moore, sophomore Austin Ando and freshman Caroline Main.

The team begins practice in mid-August and sails until just before Christmas, takes a couple of weeks off, and then returns to the water. They practice two or three times a week, and many manage to put more time in to improve. They sail out of the College of Charleston Sailing Center at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina and also receive assistance from Charleston Community Sailing.

At the National Championship, the teams will be sailing the Naval Academy’s 420s and Flying Juniors, two-person boats. Each school will have one crew sailing in A division and a second crew sailing in B division, with as many as 10 races Saturday and 10 more Sunday, depending on the wind and weather conditions.

“I think it’s the addition of some new, very motivated kids to our team,” said Cameron, who began participating as an eighth-grader, the same year Bestoso began coaching the team. “Everybody’s hard work throughout the year, I think that’s what made the difference. We had the right group of kids that wanted to do this. We put the hard work toward (nationals) and were able to get there.”

Bestoso, a former national champion at the College of Charleston, was assisted by another former College of Charleston national champion, Ben Spector, until a couple of weeks ago when Spector moved to Los Angeles for a job.

“It’s really been a mindset change,” Bestoso said. “When I came here it was more like a social activity. Now we’ve transitioned into becoming a team that is setting goals and is driven to succeed.”