The newest inductee into the Inter-Collegiate Sailing Association (ICSA) Hall of Fame won that honor for his skills as a coach, but he is just as deserving for his skills as a repairman. “When I first got here in 1985, we had ten boats,” says Boston University sailing coach Brad Churchill. “And there were 85 patches to do on the fleet.”
Things have improved over the last 20 years. The University’s Dinghy Sailors, the club sailing team, now races with a three-year-old fleet of Flying Juniors. The team, which has seven national championships to its name, appears to be climbing back into the collegiate rankings after a few years of sliding. In July, the ICSA awarded Churchill one of its Graham Hall Coaching Awards, named for the late U.S. Naval Academy and America’s Cup coach Hall.
“It’s been a long 21 years,” says Churchill, “but I can’t wait for the next 21.”
Churchill grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, and learned to sail on his current playing field, the Charles River, at Boston’s Community Boating program. A junior membership — for anyone under age 18 — cost $1 for the entire summer. “I started there in 1969 and went pretty much every summer day, until they kicked me out at 18 and wouldn’t let me in the junior program anymore,” he says.
After attending Westfield State College, Churchill returned to Community Boating in 1980. He did that, he says, “instead of finding a real job.” He stayed for five years, running both the junior and senior programs, before becoming BU’s coach in 1985.
Since then, Churchill has coached the teams, taught sailing classes, scheduled regattas, and generally kept BU’s sailing program up and running. “I pretty much work seven days a week,” he says. “But my heart’s certainly into the coaching. You do that for a week and it’s not really like work.”
This coming year, he says, the focus will be on rebuilding and moving back into the top 20 of the ICSA rankings. Last year, the team reached the 21st spot a few times and finished in third place on the first day of the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association championships.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Churchill says. “We’ve had people that I wouldn’t call star sailors when they showed up at BU, and a couple of them have gone on to be All-Americans.”