Ready For Action

Meet Georgetown sophomore Charlie Buckingham, college sailing's No. 1 guy.

The Georgetown sailing team knew exactly what they were dealing with. The gusty San Francisco breeze failed to exhaust the determined Hoyas, who qualified for three InterCollegiate Sailing Association National championships this spring.

Copyright Glennon Stratton / www.gtsphotos.com| |Well-prepared on the boathandling front, Charlie Buckingham and crew Alex Taylor execute a tack during the ICSA Team Race Championship.|

"It was a long six days, but we were ready," says A-division skipper Charlie Buckingham, of Newport Beach, Calif., who sailed six consecutive days in two regattas. His performances at Coed and Team Race Nationals were of such caliber that Georgetown finished third in both regattas and Buckingham received All-American honors for the second year in a row. Because of his outstanding performance this year, Buckingham also garnered the Everett B. Morris Trophy, distinguishing him as the Men's Collegiate Sailor of the Year. He's only a sophomore, by the way.

In preparing for Nationals, did you focus more on team racing or fleet racing?
Truthfully, we really didn't do that much fleet racing practice. We worked on a lot of team racing combos and a progression of different drills, trying to get ready for Nationals. By practicing starts, combos, and all your team racing drills, you are doing a lot of boathandling. In the end, when you practice team racing, you do get in a lot of fleet racing practice because of all the boathandling work and concentrating on making your boat go fast. I felt like we were prepared for all three regattas.

Were you familiar with the San Francisco conditions?
I knew what they were like because I had done a couple of clinics at City Front, but I had never really done a serious regatta there. I knew going into it about the strong current and the strong wind, but I had never been in a true racing scenario. Until I got onto the starting line, I didn't actually know what to expect.

What was the biggest challenge for you at Nationals?
Basically the whole time I got pretty bad starts. I think it was a combination of the strong wind and really strong upwind current. I'm usually a pretty conservative starter and not very aggressive on the line and I think an aggressive starting strategy was rewarded at that regatta. In hindsight, I should have been a lot more aggressive, but I hadn't really practiced that style yet. I just did not get off the line as well as I needed to.

How did you get back to a good position during races?
Alex Taylor [Georgetown '10] and I are pretty fast together. We've worked really hard all year and usually when we didn't get a good start throughout the year we were able to play the shifts really well and work together to make everything in the boat go as best it could in the conditions. City Front was pretty much a one-sided track the whole time so basically the only thing we could do to dig back was try and go fast and catch a lot of boats downwind.

How did you keep your energy up through both regattas?
You know, I thought it was going to be a huge problem going into the regatta, but I ended up not getting tired the whole time. The Georgetown team spent a lot of time in the gym preparing for the regatta so getting tired would not be an issue. In addition to being in pretty good shape for the conditions that we saw, we made sure we got plenty of sleep and ate proper food. We were really serious at Nationals and we made sure that we did all the right things to stay energized.

Copyright Glennon Stratton / www.gtsphotos.com| |Charlie Buckingham and crew Alex Taylor sail fast downwind at the ICSA Team Race Championship.|

What was the high point this year for you?
Winning the award at the end of the year was great. Besides the award though, I would have to pinpoint the Trux. It is a very historical event and the biggest college sailing event. My dad even sailed the Trux when he was younger, so to win such a big and long-running college sailing event was really cool. It also truly showed the depth of our team. We have at least six very good sailors this year on our team and it was just really awesome to go there with four divisions and win.

You mentioned that your dad sailed at the Trux. Has he influenced your sailing career?
Definitely. He is pretty much the person that introduced me to the sport. He's always been there to support me, watch me at regattas and even give me advice. He was the one who showed everything to me and I've always looked up to him. He still sails a lot. It is actually kind of funny because now he is doing some Master's Laser stuff and I sail against him sometimes, which is very fun. I'll always look up to my dad and he'll always be one of my biggest role-models.

As a sophomore, did you think you'd be in the running for winning Sailor of the Year?
It actually never crossed my mind the whole year. A couple of people had mentioned it to me, but to be honest, I just wrote it off because I thought a sophomore would never be able to win it. It was something I didn't really focus on, which I think in the end worked to my advantage. It felt extremely good to be nominated and then when I won, I don't know, I was beside myself. It just felt really great.
I want to thank my crew Alex: there's definitely no way I would have gotten the award without her. I just want her to be recognized because she is such a dedicated crew. I'd also like to recognize my team because they are such an awesome group of people. Our practices are intense, but they are also really fun and the team definitely challenges me everyday on the water. Finally, I'd like to thank my coaches, Mike and Alana. They are great coaches and fun people to be around. It was just a very good year. Overall, I am really, really happy.

You've had two fantastic years of sailing. Anything specific that you are trying to work on for next year?
After having a tough time starting at Nationals, one of the things I am going to work on is my starting strategy. On average, I've been a decent starter, but I really want to make that a strong point in my game. Next year, I'm going to go in and work on that hard so it is never an issue again.