High school and college sailors from the U.S. Virgin Islands took their territorial pride to the national level by earning championship titles and impressive individual awards at major regattas on the U.S. mainland this spring. Specifically, the Antilles School Sailing Team won the Interscholastic Sailing Association’s Team Race Championship for the Baker Trophy, while St. Thomas’ Ian Barrows, a 2017 Yale University graduate, earned the coveted Marlow Ropes College Sailor of the Year award at the Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s Gill Coed College Sailing National Championship.
Twelve high school sailing teams from across the nation, including Antilles from St. Thomas, each qualified for a shot at the Baker Trophy through successfully sailing in district championships. Right off the bat, competitors faced challenging conditions with winds blowing 0 to 15 knots and boxing the compass throughout the day. The contest’s setting was the mouth of the Elizabeth River in Virginia, where host Old Dominion University is located. All teams sailed two-person FJs.
“We went into the event feeling strong,” says Sam Morrell, a senior who will be attending Boston University in the fall. “After the first day, we were in a solid position overall. The team’s skill, maturity and passion for the sport showed on the second day as we swept the Gold Fleet.”
Antilles bested California’s Point Loma Academy in second, followed by Milton Academy of Massachusetts in third place.
Winning Antilles team members comprised captain Sam Morrell as skipper along with fellow co-team captain Caroline Teare as crew. The other members of the team were Teddy Nicolosi skippering with Ryan Hunter as crew, and Chris Sharpless skippering with Robert Hunter as crew. Like Morrell, Teare and Hunter will sail on the collegiate level in the fall at Georgetown University and the United States Merchant Marine Academy, respectively.
This is the seventh National Championship Title won by the Antilles School Sailing Team since the team was founded twelve years ago.
The five to eight knots of breeze that barely puffed across the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, made racing challenging in two-person Z420s at the Gill Coed College Sailing National Championship. This was especially true for Caribbean sailors used to more blustery tradewinds, but it sure didn’t show at awards time. In fact, after host College of Charleston’s team came in first, it was Yale University – with Barrows skippering – that took second place. Barrows also earned All-American skipper.
“Nationals was a mental endurance test, but fortunately we persevered and we got a spot on the podium,” says Barrows, who post-graduation will sail Olympic 49ers as well as sail professionally. “Everything I learned from college sailing will help me with my future sailing and with life.”
Fellow Yale student, Graceann Nicolosi, earned All-American crew, something special for a freshman.
“I worked hard every day during practice to do the best I could to compete with my teammates, and they pushed me to be better every day,” says Nicolosi. “I hope one day to also be that inspiration for someone on the team.”
Four other Virgin Islands college sailors either won individual awards or helped their team achieve a national top 10 ranking. Nikki Barnes, a 2017 graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy was named the Robert H. Hobbs Sportsmanship Award winner, All-American Co-Ed Honorable Mention skipper and led the Academy to a 9th place finish. St. Croix’s Mack Bryan, a junior at Roger Williams University, was also named All American Co-Ed Honorable Mention skipper, with RWU ending 10th overall. Senior Alec Tayler led the Fordham University team to 7th place and freshman Paige Clarke from St. John, helped Dartmouth to third on the podium.
Report by Carol Bareuther