Charlotte Rose, 17, conquers South China Sea to win coveted title and beat a favored, future Olympian
Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
- Muhammad Ali
Often, dreams become fleeting specters, visions of forsaken destiny sailing beyond our grasp, finally swamped by life's distractions. But Charlotte Rose's dream of Olympic podiums - charted when she was just nine years old - has become a tidal wave of tenacity that just might sweep her into Paris for the 2024 games.
Rose, a senior at Westside High School in the Energy Corridor, conquered the South China Sea, 20-knot wind gusts and a host of international competitors in December to win a gold medal at the 47th annual Youth Sailing World Championship held in Sanya, China.
"I don't worry about the going slow, just the standing still," says Rose, a 17-year-old who grew up in the Energy Corridor.
Training countless hours while maintaining a 4.2 GPA and competing on Westside's swim team, Rose is anything but a teen who stands still.
She joined 378 athletes from 62 nations to compete in Sanya - hosting what is considered the world's top youth sailing event and training ground for the Olympics. Rose, navigating a one-person dingy known as a Laser Radial, sailed away from the fleet during her first race and then posted all top-two scores in the final matches.
Houstonians may not have taken notice, but the sailing world has.
Rose happens to be a finalist for the United States Sailing Organization's 2017 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year award. Winners will be announced in late January and honored during an awards ceremony at the prestigious New York Yacht Club in Manhattan on February 28.
"Being a finalist is pretty awesome," Rose says with a smile.
Rose and her dream set sail at the young age of nine.
"I wanted to be an Olympian ever since I started sailing," says Rose. "I was always into sports. But sailing is the biggest one for me. I've always wanted to be an athlete. Competition is fun for me."
When a friend of her parents took the family yachting, she liked it so much her dad, Darren Rose, signed the young girl up for a sailing camp run by the Houston Yacht Club in Shore Acres, abutting Galveston Bay. A week of that and Charlotte was hooked, pursuing a dream that eventually saw her competing in state and national regattas before taking the helm of the Laser Radial - a small, maneuverable sailing dingy designed to tackle heavy winds.
Physical Chess Match
"Muhammad Ali said champions are not made in the gym, champions are made from within," says her father Darren. "Charlotte is dedicated to the sport. It's something that's very technical, like running a marathon and playing chess at the same time. You're competing six hours a day, the wind blowing hard at times. It is very, very physical."
Charlotte describes sailing is a unique sport.
"You can be as strong as you can; anybody can run, as long as they practice and practice," she explains. "With sailing you have to be mentally strong and physically strong. The tactics and maneuvers play like chess."
It also takes some willpower for a teenager to meet the demands of school while training at near-Olympic level. Competing nationally and internationally, Rose misses four to six weeks of school each year, her summers filled with training and races.
"We have a deal," says Darren. "If she doesn't keep her school up, she can't go sailing. The deal we have is that if she shows commitment and desire to the sport than I will support her."
For Charlotte, preparation made all the difference with her victory at the Youth Sailing World Championship.
“It was all about trusting how much time I put in, and keeping a level head,” she explains. “There is a lot of training time in the boat, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Working out three times a week, being on the swim team, practicing on weekends.
“I trust the preparation,” she says. “That and keeping it simple as far as techniques and tactics go. And sailing smarter than anyone else.”
While competitive sailing may not make the tidal wave of local sports news coverage devoted to football, baseball and basketball, a number of world class sailors come from Texas and Houston, says Darren Rose. In fact, the head coach of Olympic sailing team lives in Cypress.
And this July, the 2018 Youth Sailing World Championship will launch in Corpus Christi. Right after winning gold at the worlds, Charlotte sailed in a qualifying race for the 2018 event. A second world's qualifier is this March in Galveston Bay, and Rose says she's ready.
Now, as her senior high school year winds down, the winds of college admission are calling, from schools like Tulane, Yale, Fordham and Jacksonville. Rose says she'd like to study physical therapy and sports medicine.
"I'm trying to be the best; that's my motivation," says Rose.