Freshman Andrew Campbell won the ICSA Men’s Singlehanded National Championship at the Houston Yacht Club this past weekend, becoming the first Georgetown sailor to accomplish the feat since the program began in 1937.

Campbell raced strong all weekend and led most of the way, beating out Harvard senior Clay Bischoff in the final few races to clinch the victory with 51 points.

The breezy conditions, with winds gusting from 12 and 18 knots over the three days, worked in Campbell’s favor. He excelled in the series of 16 half-hour races to win the first singlehanded competition of his college career.

Campbell’s strategy was to take a conservative approach.

“I didn’t do anything too radical,” Campbell said. “I just stuck to my routes. Winning the first race helped my confidence and it set the pecking order before the regatta really started.”

Head Sailing Coach Mike Callahan reinforced the significance of Campbell’s approach.

“Andrew hedged his bets a little,” Callahan noted. “He sailed up the middle of the course and didn’t always the post in first place, but he was consistent.”

Callahan pointed out that Bischoff won several races, but that his aggressiveness cost him at times. Conversely, Campbell had “just one bad round,” according to Callahan, finishing 10th in the third race. In the final 13 races, he never finished lower than sixth place.

The format of the race gave Campbell a distinct advantage. The Laser Class that is used for singlehanded sailing at the collegiate level is also an international class. Campbell has practiced with the Laser boats for several years and the familiarity helped him during the race. Coupled with the fact that he has been sailing with Georgetown all fall and had previously seen many of his opponents, Campbell went into the ICSA Championship confident.

“Drew is so talented, all the other coaches looked at him and said, `he’s going to win,'” Callahan explained. “It’s difficult as [a] freshman knowing you’re expected to win. He handled it well; a lot of people would’ve cracked under the pressure. I knew he was the best sailor going into it. With the short races . and the level of competition, I knew it was going to come down to the last couple of races. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I thought he could win.”

Campbell recognized that many considered him to be the favorite but did not let their perceptions affect his sailing.

“In my own mind, I thought I could win,” he said. “I didn’t go into it wanting to finish second.”

The victory was even sweeter for Campbell because his father won the national championship when he was in college.

“My dad has always been a role model and he’s a great sailor in his own right,” Campbell said. “Just to be able to be to compared with him at a level like this is an accomplishment.”

While sailing for Georgetown, Campbell is also training for another great accomplishment – competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Campbell has been practicing and competing at the international level in anticipation of the qualifiers, held in November 2003.

Both Campbell and his coach admitted that training for the Olympics while competing at Georgetown presents some interesting challenges, but that the two ultimately complement each other very well.

“I’m aware he’s got two different things on his mind,” Callahan acknowledged. “But the types of races are different. There are things you get out of college racing that can help. He knows what skills he needs to succeed in either level.”

Campbell appreciates the value of college sailing, recognizing the importance of the team dynamic.

“Everyone pushing each other helps me in the long run, and hopefully I can help them as well,” he noted. “I look forward to enjoying the college sailing experience. Outside sailing will take away from some college events, but in the end they complement each other.”

If last weekend’s championship is any indication, Campbell is likely to have a strong sailing career, both at Georgetown and beyond.

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