Tulane sailing coach looks to build off successful last season

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Before he coached the team to fifth best in the nation last season, sailing Head Coach Charles Higgins’ journey saw him sail in competitions in the United States and around the globe, help coach a dominant Old Dominion University team, start a brand new varsity program at Tulane University and lead that program through a global pandemic.  

Higgins grew up in Texas and picked up sailing in his early teens through his father. At the collegiate level, Higgins sailed for Old Dominion University although “[he] certainly never planned on getting into coaching when I went off to college.” Higgins later said, “sailing truly is a sport that you can play well into your adult life, and I am very fortunate to be able to continue competing nationally and sometimes internationally to this day.”

After a highly successful tenure as an assistant coach at Old Dominion, Tulane hired Higgins to lead the brand new varsity sailing program. Higgins preached patience from the start. “I think the biggest challenge is just being able to relay the message that it’s going to take time to get [the program] toward where it could ultimately be.” 

During the 2021 sailing season, the Green Wave sailors found fair winds as they finished fifth best program in the nation. “I think our own team knew that we were pretty good and we had been very successful,” Higgins said. “It’s very rewarding to watch the student athletes realize very early on in each of those events that we more than just belong. We’re very competitive and we want to do well.”  

Two remarkable aspects of the Green Wave sailors are their youth and scholarship status.  Entering the 2021 Sailing National Championship, only two sailors had prior experience at a collegiate level championship. “[I had to] lean on experience a little bit from back in my days at Old Dominion then we had a really strong program of knowing what to expect at that national level,” Higgins said.  The team sailed admirably, finishing in the top 10 in three races, and second in the women’s championship.

Tulane sailing does not offer scholarships to its athletes. Despite this, Higgins highlights the dedication of his sailors to their sport saying, “We’re in the gym as an entire team at 7 a.m. this morning, and we will be there multiple times a week for the entire school year. We put in the same, if not longer hours, than a lot of other teams and still being really successful in the classroom. Everyone’s just as dedicated to the craft of this sport as any other athlete would be to theirs.”

Like every sport, sailing found itself in unknown waters during the pandemic. There were no outbreaks on the team, but sailors still faced restrictions in how to train, how to travel to competitions and even who they could compete against. Coach Higgins emphasized that his sailors faced the same challenges everyday Tulane students had, saying that his team still had to live in dorms, go and be successful in the classroom and keep themselves and their community safe.  

Looking forward to next season, Higgins is cautious about his expectations but confident in the ability of his team. The coach mentioned the difficulty in repeating a high standard of success annually, yet he is optimistic in both the incoming freshman talent and the seasoned veterans on his team.  Last season, Green Wave sailors Ciara Rodriguez-Horan, Cameron Giblin, Caroline Benson and Lydia Brown won All-American Honors for their 2021 campaign. The Green Wave will look to roll on into another strong season next year.

Tulane University will host three of the national championships at Lake Pontchartrain from May 17 to 27, 2022.

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