Isabel Grace Thurlow

Soulful Sailing

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April 2021 Issue
by Jacie Elizabeth Millen
Photography by Capizzano Photography

“When I was 10 years old, I knew I had found what I loved to do,” explained Isabel Grace Thurlow.

Isabel is a 17-year-old, gentle souled, incredibly passionate, rocket blast of a young woman with more gumption than you can shake a stick at. She grew up being on the water constantly, always wanting to be like her big brother, James, and sail. At 10-years-old, she came to the conclusion it was her time to start sailing, as well. And being homeschooled most of her school life, the opportunities became endless for her to start conquering her urges to be on a sailboat.

Sailing has always been a Thurlow family activity, and they have always had a boat to cruise on. After many summers spent on Hilton Head Island enjoying a variety of summer sailing programs, Isabel’s family finally decided to make the move from Summerton, SC, to Bluffton, creating one of the best opportunities for Isabel yet.

Isabel is enjoying every minute as a member of the South Carolina Yacht Club sailing team. The competition, the friends she's made and her coach, Mark Newman, have really enhanced her love for sailing indefinitely. When she began talking about her experiences and love for the sport, she couldn't stop!

Competition sailing is a team sport, but as Isabel attests, you want to be the best on your team. Depending on your age, you start in a smaller boat, and as you grow in age and skill, your boat size grows along with you. “You start in a sailboat called an Opti, which is basically like a bathtub with a sail,” Isabel laughed. When she was younger, she had an Opti of her own named Luna. Isabel has graduated from racing Optis and currently races a Laser sailboat passed down from James. She continued, “I learned to sail on a JY15. I've raced on seven vessels: Optis, Lasers, Harbour 20’s, J70’s and a J24 with my brother and his crew.”

Racing with her brother is one of her favorite things to do. Charleston race week and a few competitions down in Florida have nothing on this dynamic duo. She will soon be attending Charleston Race Week, April 8 -11, training hard to be her absolute best. Isabel also was the 2019 SCISA (South Carolina Independent School Association) state champion, sailing an International 420 Dinghy. And her parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends are always there whether offering good advice, taking a boat ride with Isabel, or to just supporting her and her sailing passion.

One of her favorite parts about the sport is finding friends both her age and different ages who share the same love she has for the water and sailing on it. She is currently part of the weekly Wednesday Harbour 20’s women's racing team out of the SC Yacht Club in Windmill Harbour.

It is refreshing to listen to Isabel talk about sailing and how it has made her the person she is today. It’s thrilling to find such a young girl, so talented and passionate about something. Her goals are to focus on the sport and just do well. She trains at least once a week during the off season, and in the summers, she has a 10-week training period where she is on the water seven days a week for almost every minute of daylight, loving it all.

When not on the water, Isabel enjoys the simple things in life. Baking chocolate chip cookies, reading, sewing and painting are a few of her favorite hobbies. She also has a heart for others and plans to go into nursing when she attends college. She’s exploring all options for the best programs not only her major, but for sailing, as well.

Isabel is a hardworking, heartfelt young woman who has risen to her potential with so much more to explore in life. “I go into every day having a positive mindset, and taking one day, one race at a time. If you start off bad, you're going to end bad, so I try to stay as positive as I can, and that’s how I end up having the most fun.”

Up Close:

Sibling Power: One of her favorite memories is racing a J24 Keelboat with her brother’s crew. “This boat had a spinnaker, and when the down winds hit the sail, it’s one of the best feelings on the water!”

Champion: Isabel has been a champion more than a handful of times and has placed runner-up in most competitions when she didn't come in first.

#Goals: If Isabel had the opportunity, she would sail around the world. “It would be hard work, but I would not pass up that opportunity.”