Alec Chicoine understands the reaction he gets every time he tells an opponent where he's from.
It's not every day that competition sailors run into someone from Ohio trying to find success in a sport whose participants typically live close to large bodies of water or on a coast.
"Most of the time when people ask me where I'm from and I say 'Ohio,' they either ask me how I got into sailing or they say they once drove through Ohio," said Chicoine, who has competed in the sport for nearly eight years. "It's kind of funny to see their reaction."
Chicoine, a Westerville North High School senior, traveled to Florida to compete in the ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami Regatta from Jan. 25-Feb. 1 on Biscayne Bay.
World Cup Miami was the third of five regattas in the 2013-14 ISAF Sailing World Cup. It is considered the North American highlight on the winter circuit for sailors campaigning for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games.
Chicoine, who did not have to compete for a spot in the regatta but entered to gain experience against some of the world's top sailors, finished 65th of 90 in the men's laser event. Some of the top finishers in the various events advanced to the Olympic trials.
Finishes are based on a point system compiled over five days.
"I wasn't planning on going down there and winning or anything, but it was a learning experience," Chicoine said. "I learned how important it is not to make mistakes. I made a couple small mistakes. It was really interesting to see how competitive the rest of the world is."
Chicoine has been training with the Hoover Sailing Club since his parents signed him up for a camp when he was about 7. He started competing when he was about 10.
He credits Logan Floyd, who has coached with the Hoover Sailing Club, and his personal trainer, Jud Beachler, with helping him to take strides as a sailor over the past few months.
"We live in the middle of Ohio, and there isn't a lot of big water here," said Alec's mother, Julie Chicoine. "The most accomplished sailors grow up on the coast. While it was sort of a walk-on situation for him competing in (World Cup Miami), he was competing against some of the world's best sailors. For him to sail in this was a big deal for us and was a big deal because we come from the middle of the Midwest."
Chicoine is expected to compete in other regattas over the coming months before graduating. He then plans to enroll at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., where he'll likely major in engineering and be involved in the school's sailing program.
"He's probably one of the best sailors in the Midwest region," Julie Chicoine said. "He's an accomplished sailor, but the distance he has to go still to be an Olympic sailor is very far."
Alec Chicoine played lacrosse until his sophomore year at North.
"I like being competitive," he said. "In other sports like track, you can train and know that you're the best. In sailing, you can do your best and still not win. Everything is within your control, but at the same time, it's not within your control."
Since he began focusing solely on sailing, he has traveled numerous weekends to Florida and Canada to practice and participate in regattas.
"People ask me, 'Where do you sail,' and I say, 'Hoover Reservoir,'" Julie Chicoine said. "Hoover has an excellent program. Alec's next step is to enter college, so he wanted to enter a college with a good engineering program and a good sailing program.
"Most of the time he's sailing in Florida on the weekends. Anything is possible if you really want it. You don't have to be bound by limitations."