St. Thomas senior Charlie Igo has been sailing since he was 7 years old. He has competed since he was 14. He sails as much as possible during the summer and is part of St. Thomas’ sailing club, which competes in regattas in the fall.
On Oct. 10 in Milwaukee, Igo’s hard work paid off as he glided to a second place finish in regional competition, effectively sealing a spot in the Intercollegiate Sailing Association National Single-Hand Championship.
“I was really excited,” Igo said of making it to nationals. “It’s a pretty big deal.”
A “big deal” indeed, considering last year Igo missed qualifying for nationals by a small margin – just one point.
“I was really wanting Charlie to qualify, because I knew how hard he tried last year,” said sailing team captain Medora Sletten. “He put a lot of time into it … I knew he could win.”
To claim the national championship, Igo will compete against 17 sailors from around the country Nov. 21-22 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
While sailing isn’t the most popular activity for Midwesterners, Igo’s relationship with the sport started early. His first boat was a hand-me-down from his uncle at the age of 7. From then on he honed his skills enough to start competing at age 14, navigating waves while most of his peers were navigating the Saturday morning TV shows.
When he got to St. Thomas, Igo joined a sailing team with a less than intimidating reputation. A small group, there are 10 members now, the teammates grew close and pushed each other in hopes of making a new name for themselves while doing something they loved.
“We’ve come a long ways,” Sletten said.”We’re pretty competitive … and [a] dominant team in the Midwest.”
Igo said he felt that closeness after the regional competition, and appreciated it.
“It’s great to have that support from the team, especially when it’s so small,” he said.
Sletten was excited for Igo but also for what his individual success means for the team.
“It’s great for someone from our team to go to nationals,” she said. “I think a lot of people wouldn’t expect it out of us, but we surprised them.”
Expecting to see stiff competition at nationals, Igo might have to rely on his relative anonymity to sneak up on competitors.
“Just looking at the list of the people that are going there, there’s already three people that have gone to the Olympics … three of them sailed in Beijing in 2008,” he said. “We’ll be sailing against some pretty good guys down there.”
Igo’s goals are simple: A top 10 finish and to give maximum effort in front of an elite group. He said sailors from the Midwest typically finish around 15th.
“These are the top sailors, I really want to go down there and give it my all,” he said.
Igo knows that with it being a big race, anxiety comes with the territory, but to him, nationals is no different than any other match. For Igo, once the wind hits his sails and the water is at his feet, it’ll be nothing but smooth sailing.
Ben Katzner can be reached at email@example.com