Marco Teixidor-Latimer is a 21 year-old sailor from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. He grew up sailing Optis, Lasers, and 420’s in the warm waters of the Caribbean. He’s competed in four youth championships and has sailed in international competitions at venues around the world, always coming home to Puerto Rico. When it was time to go to college, though, he chose to head north. Marco is a junior and a finance major at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business in Washington, DC, where the average annual temperature is 53 F.
The cold hasn’t chased Marco away from his love of the water, however. The Georgetown University Sailing Team (GUST) is currently ranked number one in the nation, and Marco is one of the top sailors on the team. In June he planned to travel with GUST to San Francisco to compete in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s national championships for team racing and fleet racing. So even though school had been out for weeks, Marco was still in DC practicing with the team.
Of course, conditions on the Potomac River aren’t always ideal as they are in the Caribbean. GUST sails out of the Washington Sailing Marina, just South of Reagan National Airport. The river water is a murky brown and the breeze is anything but steady. Often coaches must cancel practice due to a lack of wind. So on a warm, sunny May afternoon, as the team waited for a sea breeze to fill in from the South, Marco and I chatted about what it’s like to be a college sailor who grew up in the islands.
I was deciding between Georgetown and Brown University in Rhode Island, and I visited them both in the spring of my senior year in high school. I really loved the Georgetown campus, and I could just see myself there.
What do you miss most about the islands?
(Looks around and laughs) The breeze. And the warm weather. And the blue water.
What is the best thing about sailing at Georgetown?
There is nothing good about our sailing venue, which is actually my favorite thing about it. You can’t count on anything; every day is a new challenge. In Puerto Rico you can count on the breeze every day from the same direction, and once you figure it out, there’s no mystery, which makes it easy to get lazy. Here you have to be more precise in every aspect of your sailing, from boat handling to tactics, and I have improved exponentially because of that.
I also think we have the best sailors in college sailing. Our practices are the toughest not just because of the conditions, but also because we have an incredibly deep team. Every practice race, be it a fleet race or a team race, is the highest caliber competition you can find at this level. We even have alumni, including two recent college sailors of the year and an Olympian (Laser sailor Andrew Campbell) who still live in the area and come out and practice with us when they can, because they want to see us get better and win.
How is college sailing different from the sailing you’ve done in the past?
Georgetown mainly sails FJs (Flying Juniors), and I had never sailed an FJ until I came here. It was a huge adjustment and it took me so long to get used to the boat. Also, the courses are so much shorter. Boat handling counts for so much in those scenarios, as do tactics. If you mess up a tack or miss a shift the consequences can be enormous.
I also had never even done team racing until I came to college. It has taken me three years, but I’m finally one of the top three team-racers on our team. I’m still learning, but I really enjoy it.
Any plans for the future?
This summer I’m going to study abroad in Barcelona, but I’m also doing Snipe Worlds. My goals are to win the Pan American Games and the Central American Games in Snipes too. Oh, and of course I want us to win college sailing nationals next month.
What advice do you have for future college sailors from the islands?
Be patient, and keep trying. It’s a lot different, and it can be frustrating, but stay with it because it will make you a better sailor in every way. And you’ll never get a chance to do anything like it again.
Andrea Bailey is a recent graduate of the College of Liberal Arts at Georgetown University, and is Marco’s crew. After college sailing nationals this June she plans to return to her home island of St. Thomas.