From sailing the seas to getting their degrees, juniors Cooper and Cameron Robinson have to make a decision that is anything but normal. The unique challenge they face is choosing between the sport and school they know and a future for the careers they want to pursue.

The pair is unsatisfied with their educational experience at Eckerd, and while they adore their sport of sailing, there are other options that they are considering. Before the Robinsons shared about what made them decide to potentially leave Eckerd, they discussed sailing as one of the many unique features that Eckerd has to offer, but the rules and rankings can be confusing. Eckerd kids are used to rugby or soccer or basketball, sports that people are more aware of.

Sailing is unlike other sports at Eckerd because they don’t fall under the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), but instead the Inter-collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) which is split into seven different regional conferences. Eckerd is a part of the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association (SAISA) which consists of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama.

Due to Eckerd’s skill in sailing, the team qualifies as Division I because of competing against the larger, most difficult schools. This also means that the sailors must follow a similar routine to a D1 athlete at another college.

“We compete against a lot of Ivy Leagues and other bigger schools…a lot bigger,” Cameron Robinson said.

Some club teams that can’t afford to travel far to attend all or many of the regattas -- the term used for a series of sailing races -- can be based on a point system. Each regatta is worth a certain amount of points each, and they can give the team a ranking based on their average overall in order to qualify for national events.

The regional teams of the SAISA also split into varsity and non-varsity, instead of having divisions like the NCAA normally has for other common sports. Eckerd is ranked as varsity and both Cooper and Cameron Robinson have only added to the school’s success. 

The pair recently helped the team secure second place in March during one of their weekend regattas, which was hosted by the University of South Florida. Both of the men are skippers, who are the drivers of the vessel, with Cameron competing in the A division and Cooper competing in the B division that Saturday.

The Robinsons’ talent has been showcased well at Eckerd, although now the men are trying to decide between the sport and school that they love and know, and the future majors and careers they need to succeed. They are looking to transfer to University of Washington in St. Louis or Columbia University, the latter of which has a club sailing team the twins are interested in.

“For me I wanted to come to Eckerd just because after visiting the school, I really liked it. The only downside is there was no engineering program,” Cooper Robinson said. “They would definitely get a lot more students that way and the physics program is relatively small, but Eckerd’s given it so much money that they could easily make an engineering program,”

Eckerd’s 3+2 engineering program is meant for three years of preparation education at Eckerd to earn a physics degree, with engineering students finishing their degrees normally within two years at Columbia University or University of Washington in St. Louis. This earns the student two degrees: one from Eckerd and the second from their other college of choice.

This engineering program falls directly under the physics department, with the major of physics acting as a blanket cover for all students who want to go into engineering. With both men double majoring in physics and math, the men are worried that all of their education will be wasted on spending more time and money to get the degrees they actually want – electrical engineering.

Although Eckerd is known for the success of its marine science and environmental studies students, other majors, such as physics, the Robinsons’ feel are being overlooked. According to the pair, the chances of getting a job post-graduation or even getting into a graduate program would be difficult with a physics degree from Eckerd.

The pair are waiting to hear from financial aid to decide whether they will remain at Eckerd to further their sailing and education here, or if they will transfer in order to fulfill their goals of getting electrical engineering degrees.

“Sailing was an extra upside, but sailing is hard to make a living off of, so it’s not really the main priority you should have after college. Like most, even all the pro sailors, they’re not making money off of it, they all have side jobs,” Cooper Robinson said.

Although they have not finalized their decision, the pair still fondly told of their favorite memories they have from Eckerd sailing, where the team was incredibly close pre-COVID. They said the team was well known for being close-knit and supportive of one another, especially offering lots of motivation before a big race.

“[At Eckerd] there’s always a lot you can do that's community based and make a lot of friends with sailing, kiteboarding, all the different outlets you can have no matter what you’re interested in,” Cooper Robinson said.

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