Weeks after she and her College of Charleston teammates won the College Sailing Women’s National Championship, Paris Henken (Coronado High School 2014) received college sailing’s top award. The Quantum Women’s Sailor of the Year is presented annually by the Intercollegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) to an individual who has performed at the highest level of competition in district and national championships.
“Winning a National Championship with my team has definitely been something I’ve always wanted to achieve. Then winning Women’s Sailor of the Year on top of that was really amazing,” said Henken.
The Charleston women’s team won the National Championship in a hotly contested two day regatta held at the end of May at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Paris and her crew (freshman Lucy Klempen) sailed well at the event and their scores, along with fall and spring regattas, factored into the Sailor of the Year award.
ICSA announced the post season awards virtually on June 29. “I knew I was probably in consideration but had no idea I won until I saw the video. It was exciting and I was just really happy,” shared Henken, who watched at home in Charleston where she is taking a summer class.
The two titles are just the most recent in a very prolific sailing career that includes, among other accomplishments, a spot on the U.S. Olympic Sailing team in the 49erFX class in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro; a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games; podium finishes at multiple U.S. North American and Youth Championships (in the 29er and 29erXX); and runner up at the 2011 High School Sailing Championships with the Coronado High School team.
Henken explained the difference between international skiff sailing and college sailing. “In skiff sailing I can rely on my speed more than tactics and strategy. In college sailing (FJ and 420 double-handed dinghies) all the boats go the same speed, you can’t really adjust much on the boat so it’s more mental. Making decisions about where to go and strategy and tactics are more important,” she said.
“College sailing has been amazing for me,” said Paris of her experience in Charleston. “I love the dynamic of our team. I have been lucky to basically experience three generations of the team and I’ve loved it all.”
Henken explained that she has been part of the Charleston team since 2014. “I started in fall of 2014 for one semester and then took time off for my Olympic campaign,” she said.
Literally days after the 2016 Olympics she flew from Rio to Charleston to return to school and college sailing. She left again for a second Olympic campaign from 2018-2020, returning to Charleston for her final year of eligibility in 2020-21.
The Charleston Cougars are a powerhouse in college sailing, having won the Leonard M. Fowle trophy for the best overall collegiate team five times in the last ten years and for the third year in a row in 2021. “It’s a great place to sail and our team is big, competitive, and fun,” said Henken.
Paris, along with her siblings, older brother Hans (CHS 2011) and twin brother Sterling, moved to Coronado when she was in fifth grade. Her parents, Ed and Tamra, chose to move to Coronado from San Clemente because of the robust youth sailing programs in San Diego.
“I have great memories of that ‘long’ sail all the way from CYC (Coronado Yacht Club) under the bridge and going to Burger King. It was probably my favorite thing to do,” laughed Henken, remembering her early days sailing Sabots in Glorietta Bay with the Coronado Yacht Club Junior Sailing program.
All three Henken siblings ended up sailing at the highest levels of the sport and in college (Hans at Stanford and Sterling at UC Santa Barbara).
Paris shared that she’s not sure what the future holds for sailing. She will be back in Charleston in the fall to complete her degree with a major in Exercise Science and a minor in Biology. “I’m not eligible to compete but I will help out wherever I can with the team,” she said. She is leaving her options open after college for more competitive sailing, and possibly a career in the medical field. She plans on getting her EMT certification and is considering Physician Assistant programs.