STANFORD, Calif - Stanford rising sophomore Marion Lepert began her sailing career after a lifetime spent on the water windsurfing. Lepert’s older sister had sailed for MIT, giving her an insight to collegiate sailing and piquing her curiosity about the sport.
Lepert received her first windsurfing lessons from her father, a collegiate windsurfer in France, when she was eight-years old. At the age of 11 she joined a group of about 20 windsurfers, all about 19 years her senior, and began racing alongside them nearly every weekend. She participated in her first international race in 2009. She now travels internationally every summer and has been a member of the 2012 and 2013 U.S. teams.
This exposure and limited opportunities in America for Windsurf-racing led Lepert to contact Stanford sailing head coach John Vandemoer who gave her a week trial period to see if it was the right fit for her.
“I showed up to the first day of sailing having stepped in a boat maybe twice before but the team was amazing in letting me in and showing me my way around the boathouse and how to sail on the water,” said Lepert.
Lepert spent last fall getting up to speed with her teammates and says that asking questions and observing were the two most effective techniques aiding her learning process.
While Lepert was surrounded by what she describes as a great deal of talent, she was still shocked by the quick pace of sailing,
“I honestly was kind of lost, everything goes by really fast, even if the boat is moving slow,” said Lepert. “There are lots of tiny, fine adjustments and so many details to pay attention to.”
Lepert’s preliminary practices involved a high learning curve and, as she puts it, “many embarrassing moments.” As she was learning, there is a lot to sailing and the mastery of techniques does not come solely after spending a practice in a boat. “I had one embarrassing moment where I tried to launch one boat off the dock and managed to flip the boat two seconds off,” she says.
Lepert’s quick dip and general shock at the pace of things did not thwart her improvement. She continued to watch the talent her teammates put forth and settled into a grove. By mid-October her sailing-racing career had begun. At the Yale Women’s Regatta, Lepert posted ten top-10 results and one victory in the 20 races she competed in.
By the end of fall, Lepert was sailing during the week and taking her windsurfing gear out on the weekends. The racing experiences that Lepert took part in were fun but once the winter quarter started, Lepert was windsurfing almost full-time, sailing, and taking classes. She decided limit her sailing and return to windsurfing.
Although winter quarter brought a change in her involvement with the team, Lepert continued to train with the squad in the weight-room and practiced her windsurfing at the same time as sailing practice.
Lepert says her experiences sailboat racing taught her to pay greater attention to detail while windsurfing. Because windsurfing is an independent sport, Lepert says she benefited from the team oriented practices and atmosphere of sailing. She believes the skill will be useful to her when interacting and training with people from other countries.
Her pure enjoyment of being on the water and her satisfaction in pursuing new challenges were easily transferable in her transition to sailing. Lepert says she thrives on the game of mastering a difficult sport and ultimately reaching a level where racing becomes competitive. Lepert felt sailing offered her many opportunities to do just that.
This summer, Lepert competed in the European Championships in Turkey, taking third in the youth division. She is currently training for the ISAF World Championships in Spain, in September; this race is viewed to as the qualifiers for many of the country spots in the 2016 Olympics.
Regardless of her future in Stanford sailing and windsurfing, the support of her Stanford sailing family will be something Lepert can always count on.