The transition from high school to college is a big deal, no matter where you’re from. The transition from a high school class of five on a small island in the Caribbean to a college in Rhode Island where the freshman class alone has almost 1,000 people is huge. But that’s just the transition Alec Anderson, a young sailor from Tortola, British Virgin Islands, made in August.
After spending the summer sailing laser radials at the US Youth Championships on Long Island Sound—he finished fourth—and the Youth Worlds in Buzios, Brazil—he got seventh, Alec headed for Roger Williams College in Rhode Island, where he was recruited to sail. The Roger Williams Hawks were ranked sixth in the nation according to Sailing World’s preseason rankings, and Alec is hoping he can help his team climb to number one by the end of the fall.
College sailing is a big adjustment, even for a young pro like Alec, who is used to international competitions where the world’s best and fastest show up to compete. Sure, there are only 18 boats on a collegiate starting line, but you can bet that at almost every regatta the fleet is stacked with kids just like Alec; kids who’ve been racing their whole lives, many on national and international levels. The courses are a lot shorter, so every start has to count, and there are no throw outs, so every finish matters too. I talked to Alec in September, just before his first regatta, to see how things were going on and off the water.
So how’s college life so far?
It’s a lot of fun. I’ve been here for one month and I think I’m finally settling in. We’re starting to get into the sailing too, which I’m excited about. I really like the team. I’m sailing in my first regatta this weekend, here at Roger Williams, so I’m looking forward to showing what I can do. I think my crew, Bianca Rom, and I sail well together, and our coach will probably sail us together a lot.
What kind of boats are you guys sailing, FJs or 420s?
Roger Williams has FJs, which I had never sailed until I got here. So I’ve only had two weeks in the boat, but I think my boat handling is already pretty good; for me it’s mostly just getting used to the college style of racing. I like getting in a new boat and learning to sail it. I know that given enough time I’ll be able to get it down, and I like pushing myself to get better.
What do you think of the coaches?
Amanda Callahan is our head coach, and Colin Merrick is our assistant coach, and they’re both really nice and laid back. Amanda knows what’s going on and understands what college sailing is like. She’s been there and done it herself, which is going to be a great asset at regattas. There’s also a good bond between the coaches and the sailors. Sometimes they’ll hang out with us after practice or go to dinner with the team, and they’re chill even at practice.
Sounds like a good time. Has it been a hard adjustment at all?
School’s harder, and there’s a lot more work, but no, I don’t think there’s been anything that’s been hard for me to adjust to; it’s mostly just different. It’s weird having team members and a coaching staff. I mean, I had a coach at home, and sometimes I’d practice with other kids from other islands, but mostly I was sailing by myself. It’s nice to be a part of a team with actual other sailors. That’s been an adjustment I’ve enjoyed.
Probably the hardest adjustment I’ll have to make will be getting used to the cold weather, but as of right now it’s still pretty warm. I don’t think it’s hit me yet that it’s going to get colder.
Given your experience so far, what would you tell the next batch of incoming freshmen from the Caribbean?
Good sailors can pick up new boats and adjust to different styles of sailing pretty well on their own, so I don’t think I’d give them any sailing advice. I’d mostly just tell them about what I’d learned about college life freshman year, and I haven’t been here long enough to give any advice about that yet.
Roger Williams- the right decision?
Andrea Bailey is a recent graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at Georgetown University, Washington, DC and a former collegiate sailor who has returned to her home island of St. Thomas.