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Brian Swingly: Winning the College Women’s Nationals

Published on May 30th, 2016

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Brian Swingly

Brian Swingly, head coach for Coast Guard, capped a dream season when his team won the 2016 Women’s National Championship (May 24-27) by 40 points. Now in his tenth year as coach for Coast Guard, Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck spoke to Brian after the victory.

Your team was one of the favorites. Why was that?

We did well in our district qualifier. I think we won by something like 15 points. And when our top women were sailing – these two girls who sailed the nationals – we were undefeated this season.

In the 2015 Women’s Nationals, your team finished 11th. What was the difference this year?
In one division, I think we got ourselves a little psyched out and it was maybe, questionably, just a little bit over our wind strength range. But it was our first national championship with this team, and they just needed that experience to really come and play hard and sail a complete regatta.

Tell us about your preparation for the 2016 Nationals.

We came here for spring break in March. We spent our week of spring break here purposefully, because we knew– well, we’ve never been here before, for one, and we knew it’s a pretty tricky venue. So, we wanted to come and see it, and we spent six days sailing right on the race course here.

While the sailing conditions we saw in March were a little bit different than we saw this regatta, it still gave us familiarization and got us ready to go. We think that the mouth of the Thames River is pretty similar to San Diego Bay, and so we’ve kept boats south of the bridge at Coast Guard, and we’ve been training out in open water for the last month. We thought that did a really good job mimicking what we found here.

The Nationals had four days of racing, and the conditions were a little different each day. How did your team adapt to the changes?
While every day was a little different, the one thing that was the same every day was that the starting line was really big. We found that we needed to be towards the end just to know where the line was, and that’s not our normal game plan. However, that turned into our game plan as the event progressed. As for the sailing condition, we were watching pretty closely for trends, or what we think can give us the most success. We have a smart group, so they figured it out pretty quickly.

The first two days are the Semi-Finals in which the top nine teams advance to the Finals. Your team won that series… how important was that for your Finals success?

Our initial focus was to learn how to sail the race course and sail the boats. The event used both College FJs and Club FJs, which are different, and we’re not used to the Club FJs. On day one our division sailed the Club FJs, so we spent the full day studying those boats. But our goal was to win that regatta too. We were never thinking how it’s okay to just qualify. Our goal was to win that regatta. It’s an attitude of excellence, of always pushing and never giving up.

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Note: Brian Swingly was named New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association Coach of the Year. The award is voted on annually by the coaches in the conference. Details.

Background: The Intercollegiate Sailing Association’s three spring national championships – Sperry Women’s National Semi-Final and Final Championship, LaserPerformance Team Race National Championship, and the Gill Coed Dinghy National Semi-Final and Final Championship – will be held May 24-June 3, with schools racing Club and Collegiate FJs on San Diego Bay in San Diego, CA. The three events will be co-hosted by San Diego Yacht Club and the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference.

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