Charlie Buckingham: Going all in

Published on January 23rd, 2013

CHARLIEBUCKINGHAMCharlie Buckingham came up short in his quest to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic Games, but he may now be one of the team’s strongest sailors going forward. Since graduating from Georgetown University in the Spring of 2011, where he was twice named College Sailor of the Year, Charlie is finally now able to go all in and focus on just one thing… an Olympic medal.

Here he shares his thoughts on campaigning and the singlehanded event.

What past lessons are you eager to apply to this quad?

A lot of my big lessons came from a campaign management standpoint. There are a lot of variables affecting the success of an Olympic sailing campaign; competition, on the water training, off the water training, time off, travel, boat logistics, good training partners (to name a few), and it simply takes time and experience to figure out how to manage these things efficiently and in a way that works best for you as an individual, while also improving your chances for success. It can be tricky connecting the dots, but I felt like I learned a lot about how I can make my program more efficient in this coming year, at least compared to last year.

Did you always hold Olympic aspirations?

I always knew an Olympic Campaign was something I could do with my sailing, but I didn’t become truly motivated to push myself further in the sport until I became a student athlete at Georgetown University. Before Georgetown, my junior sailing training was more informal, but I loved sailing and competing. When I got to Georgetown, it was the first time I was involved in a structured training program for sailing and it was fulfilling to see the training pay off at regattas. I sailed Lasers when time permitted during college, but never had the luxury of training full time so by the time graduation came I was pretty motivated to see where I could take my Laser sailing.

The Laser is a highly established class in the U.S., yet the country’s performance has lagged on the international circuit. To what do you attribute the status of the U.S. in the Laser?

From my observations in the year I’ve been doing it full time, I feel like the Europeans have an advantage in the concentration of good Laser sailors on the continent relative to its size. There are a lot of good guys to train with or sail against, all of whom are typically within a day or less of travel by car from each other.

I also think our country is a unique in that when most teenagers are big enough for the full Laser rig at age 18 or older, they go to college or are already in college. I guess you could make the argument that it’s a disadvantage to not be sailing full time at the age of 18 like many top Laser sailors from other countries, but it’s rare that any kid in the U.S. will forgo college to go Laser sailing full time and I think it’s unrealistic to do that in our country. It’s crucial to get a college education and degree. We’re lucky to have college sailing, which provides you with an easy, cheap way to spend a ton of time on the water training and competing. It may not be Laser sailing, but it’s still time on the water

Are there enough fast Laser sailors in North America so that the need for European travel can be minimized?

I think there could be a larger emphasis on training domestically, but in order to compete with the fastest guys in the world, you need to be challenged by them, and in my opinion Laser regattas in North America aren’t at a level where European travel for competition can be minimized.

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