For Charlie Buckingham, sailing has always been about one thing.
“The best thing about sailing is being out on the water and doing something that you love,” Buckingham shared, before stopping to correct himself.
BIO BOX: Charlie Buckingham
HOMETOWN: Newport Beach, Calif.
BIRTHDATE: Jan. 16, 1989
COLLEGE: Georgetown University
US SAILING TEAM: 2013, 2009
US SAILING DEVELOPMENT TEAM: 2012
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING EVENTS:
• ISAF Sailing World Cup Miami, Miami; Jan. 25-30
• Trofeo SAR Princess Sofia, Palma de Mallorca, Spain; March 26-April 2.
“Actually," he said with a smile, "for me, the best thing about sailing is the competition. It’s super challenging, but it’s so challenging it’s almost addicting, because you can always get better. And that’s what drives me. I always want to get the best out of myself and I think it's the competitive aspect of it that keeps me motivated and coming back."
A two-time College Sailor of the Year and four-time Inter-collegiate Sailing Association All-American, Buckingham began sailing when he was 8 years old with his father.
"I would crew for him at local competitions so I was basically introduced to sailing in a racing environment and that’s how I came to really know the sport," he said. "I just remember what really got my adrenaline going and what was really fun for me was the competition."
Eighteen years later, the Newport Beach native is now part of the US Sailing team and focused on qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. And it's a good thing Buckingham likes competition, because no American sailor has even stood on the Olympic podium in his event, let alone won gold.
“I think that speaks a lot to the difficulty of the laser class. To medal in the laser is probably one of the hardest things you can do in Olympic sailing," he said.
What makes the laser class so difficult, Buckingham said, is the boat's simplicity. Originally designed as a lightweight boat that could easily be transported by car, the laser is now one of the most popular racing designs in the world. What makes winning so hard is each laser is basically the same — identical hulls, identical sails, identical rigging. The only difference is the sailor.
Buckingham said the past four years have been spent trying to improve all aspects of his sailing, including being physically and mentally prepared for all the challenges a race can present. Recently, he finished fourth at the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games and seventh at the 2015 Rio Olympic Test Event. Now with the actual Games less than a year away, Buckingham said he's focused on getting better every day with the help of his coaches, teammates and sponsors.
“It’s a huge honor for me to represent West Coast University and I’m incredibly thankful for their support and especially David Pyle’s support because his focus is to help students achieve their personal best," Buckingham said. "For me, I can feel that with my campaign, he's helping me achieve my personal best and getting me closer to my dream of going to the Olympics and achieving my dream goal of winning a gold medal.”