ODU Sailing--Sailing Away the Competition

November 07, 2002
By ODU Athletics

Nov. 7, 2002

The forecast called for mild winds and a high of 66 degrees-perfect conditions for sailing. For head coach Mitch Brindley and the rest of the ODU sailing team, everyday seems to be great for sailing-no matter what the condition.

Since taking over as head coach in 1995, Brindley has continued to establish ODU's sailing program as one of the nation's elite. In 1997-98, the 1989 ODU alum guided his teams to national titles in the ICYRA Team Race and the ICRYA Co-ed Dinghy Championships. Last season, Brindley lead his squad to the school's third ICSA Women's National Championship. Now in his eighth season, Brindley and his program show no signs of slowing down. After strong performances at the Navy Intersectional and Stu Nelson regattas, ODU's top ranked women's sailing team look to be in contention for the schools 14th national championship.

As an assistant coach at Old Dominion for four years under former head coach K.C. Fullmer, Brindley helped guide the Monarchs to a sloop national championship in Hawaii in 1992. As a competitor for Old Dominion, he was twice named team captain and twice selected to Sailing World's All-Star Crew. He crewed for the Monarchs when they won the ICYRA Sloop Nationals in 1988, the Dinghy National Championship team in 1989, and the team's fifth place finish in the Team Race National Championship in the spring of 1989. As both a crew member and coach, Brindley has been directly involved in obtaining seven of Old Dominion's 12 national championships and has also been responsible for producing some of America's best sailors-many of whom have found success on the water after graduation.

Brad Funk graduated from Old Dominion in 2002 and is emerging as one of the stars of sailing. During his college career, Funk earned All-American honors to go along with numerous regatta wins. Funk has competed in the UBS Challenge--America's first and only sailing event of amateur sailors--and has chased prizes of over $100,000. Funk has also competed against teams from the America's Cup-the oldest sport trophy.

John Kostecki graduated from ODU in 1990 and serves as a tactician on AmericaOne, a competition boat that competes in the America's Cup. The Monarchs won two of their national titles that year with Kostecki helping to lead the way.

Terry Hutchinson is also one of the most notable sailors to come out of ODU. Since graduating in 1990, Hutchinson has won the J/24 World Champion, J/24 North American and Midwinter championships, as well as One Design 35 national championship among many other awards and titles. Currently, Hutchinson serves alongside Kostecki as a tactician on AmericaOne. Even though sailing is a non-scholarship sport, Brindley has little trouble attracting and recruiting the country's best talent. ODU's region stretches from Virginia to Maine and includes top notch programs like Georgetown University and Harvard University that compete with ODU for talent. The Mid-Atlantic region is considered one of the toughest in the country..

"Our region, the Mid Atlantic, can be considered the ACC or Big East of college sailing," said assistant coach and 1999 ODU alum, Mark Zagol.

Even though these schools may have many advantages over ODU in name recognition and prestige, Brindley's consistent dominance over these schools makes Old Dominion the school of choice for many recruits.

"They want to compete at the top level," Brindley said. "Sailors aren't motivated by the green dollar. We don't have to worry about someone offering them a better scholarship package or having them leave school to go professional."

Having the nation's best sailing facility doesn't hurt recruiting efforts either. The Old Dominion Sailing Center is located just minutes from campus on the waterfront behind the apartments on Powhatan Rd. in Norfolk ,and is complete with locker rooms, classrooms, showers, offices and a work area. Also, adjacent to the sailing center, Old Dominion's boathouse provides storage for the program's fleet of FJ's, Lasers, 420's and various support crafts. Both the Sailing Center and boathouse have been well funded and supported by gracious local sailors and alumni.

Many ODU and local college students are aware of the successes of the sailing program, but they are unaware of the fundamentals of the sport. Like many other sports, sailing requires teamwork, mental and physical fitness, particularly upper-body strength. The sailors must be able to adjust with the wind to maneuver the boat to follow the complicated course pattern.

" Our athletes are no different than other athlete," said Brindley. "They are competing in their sport because they love it, they are good at it, and they have incredible heart and drive. What makes them a great sailor is what make a great basketball player, it's their competitive drive, their natural ability, their work ethic and coaching."

According to Brindley, although many competitions of sailing are very difficult to follow because of the distance off shore, there are some aspects of sailing that are much more "spectator friendly."

One of the regattas, or sailing competitions, is the fleet sailing event. During the timed race each team has a different color sail and spectators from shore can easily see who is leading the race. Up to 16 boats can compete in the event. Like motor racing all boats begin at a starting line, race around an invisible track, and finish. Also like motor racing, when there are a lot of boats competing on the same track, accidents can happen.

"Sailing is a lot like NASCAR," Brindley said. "Sometimes there's contact and boats run into each other and cause a pile up. Sailing requires more tactics and maneuvering."

Also, because sailing is not a scholarship sport, anyone who wants to sail can be apart of the team. Brindley rarely cuts interested students, but he does look for athleticism in possible participants.

"College sailing is an equal opportunity sport." Brindley said. "If you have talent and some athletic ability it's an open door policy. We have people on our team who are junior national champions and some who have never sailed before."

"For the ones who have never sailed before, they have to be trainable," he continued. "But anyone can sail."

For Brindley and the sailing team, it looks to be smooth sailing once again. Once the boats are out, the sails up, and the wind blowing, there is little doubt that ODU will sail away victorious once again.

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