If you have ever taken a cruise over the Ravenel Bridge, then you have crossed over the practice field of a team who is currently ranked No. 3 in the Sailing World’s College Rankings and were ranked as high No. 1 during the 2011 fall season. The College of Charleston coed sailing team, a team that builds their day and season around the forces of nature, is continually decorated with bushels victories and chart-topping rankings. However, this team is graced by more than just immense numerical statistic; it been privileged to roster athletes such as Samuel Stokes.
An echoing distinction of Stokes is his genuine likeness both as an athlete and a teammate. While on the docks of the J. Steward Walker Center, continuous praise follows the mention of this senior’s name. Head sailing coach Ward Cromwell was one of those to extol Stokes as a true team player.
In an afternoon of sitting down with Stokes, early in the sailing season, it became obvious that Stokes has the ability to, quite simply, take life in stride and enjoy the journey as much as destination.
Stokes has been with CofC all four years of his college career and now is soaking up the last bit of his time at the College. “I’m just trying to enjoy everything,” said Stokes. “I’ve been fighting to be a starter for the last couple years and it’s just been fun trying to get everyone better; myself and the team,”
From a young age Stokes, with the company of his dad and brothers, has been refining his skills as a sailor. “Our dad got us in the boat at probably four or five,” said Stokes.
Starting from freshman year Stokes sailed as a crew member for CofC and at this time he managed to place first in two regattas and place within top five in six additional regattas.
Stokes achievements grew as time was invested on the water and his skills increased. By sophomore
year Stokes was able to fill the role as either a skipper or crew member. During his second year Stokes and the team reclaimed a SAISA Team Race Championship victory; Stokes served as a crew member to help win the title. Following that he raced in the ISCA National Championship East Semifinals where he placed second in the B-Division.
By junior year Stokes was a skipper in the A-Division in the SAISA Spring Coed Championships, where he was able to place third. Stokes, again, took third but this time as a crew member in the ICSA/APS Team Race National Championship. Mid-season of his junior year he place first in the A-Division of the 2011 Truxtun Umsted regatta as crew.
Stokes has been a part of a momentous era in the CofC sailings history. One of these memorable moments for the team was this past year when CofC competed in two intersection regattas.
“We went out the first weekend. We had two intersectional’s up in the north east, which are regattas where every district comes and sails,” said Stokes. “We won both of those that weekend and we were one of the only teams who could have done that in the last 10 years, probably. We were just so psyched. It’s great; we’ve just been getting better every year.”
Now the senior Stokes finishes up, what has been, a memorable season for the No. 3 ranked Cougars. Again CofC won the 2012 SAISA Team Race Championships and have the ICSA Team Race National Championship in their sights.
During sailing season the commitment is fairly extensive and tactical.
“We practice three days a week, which might be less than a lot of the teams,” says Stokes. “We start in September and go to November 20th. It’s super a long season, it’s a marathon so you don’t need to be super intense and practice every single day. You just want to learn something each day you go to practice.”
Practice is not the only thing that takes up much of an athlete’s life; travel is also an extensive portion of an athlete’s life. While traveling to the different regattas throughout the year Stokes says that the competition is often against people you have sailed with before and have known for years.
“You know everybody on the circuit and you grew up sailing with a lot of the kid.” Stokes went on to add. “It’s fun to race against your old friends.”
As senior year concludes and graduation sits on the horizon, Stokes noted just how much of a bond his class has with one another. “My class, we’ve been best friends, for the past three and a half, now four year.”
For each of the seniors, who now depart from their four year investment at CofC, the journey varies. Some sailors may continue with Olympic Campaigns but for Stokes, someone whose takes life in stride, he is happy to admit, “I’ll be a weekend sailing sailor; finding the rig in my time off.”