Sailor Spotlight: Brielle Willoughby
Brielle Willoughby is a junior sailor who grew up sailing on Long Beach Island. After a very successful Opti career, Brielle has transitioned into the Club 420 during the summer and winter months. As a sophomore, Brielle actually transferred to Southern Regional HS. Obviously Southern is a fantastic school, but one thing that made the decision easy was the fact that Southern had one of the best sailing teams in the state. Now she is sailing in the fall and spring for the Southern team, and she is kicking butt in the process. Brielle is friendly, smart, and really hard working. She's a huge asset to any team she is on, and her love of the sport is contagious.
Name: Brielle Willoughby
School: Southern Regional High School
Yacht Club: Surf City Yacht Club
1) Brielle, first of all, you killed it a couple weekends ago in Virginia at the MASSA Gold High School Fall Fleet Racing Champs. You put together a really consistent scoreline that helped Southern Regional HS qualify for the ACCs. What worked well for you last weekend? What was your goal going into the event and how did you approach achieving your goal? One thing that worked well for me was focusing really hard on sailing fast. Going into the regatta, my team had talked a lot about consistency and how avoiding the big mistakes would be the key to qualifying. By trusting in my speed and sailing a low risk regatta, I was able to keep my finishes relatively consistent and avoid races that would add large quantities of points to my team's score. When I did get into trouble and made a mistake, I was very focused on achieving my goal of keeping a clear head and making up points with speed and conservative decision making instead of risking losing more boats by attempting to catch up by passing many boats at one time. One boat at a time!
2) Tell me about high school sailing on the Southern Regional team. Who's your coach? Who else is on the team? How often do you practice and where? What's a typical practice day like? Give me the deets! This is my second year on the Southern Regional sailing team, and I am so glad that I had the opportunity to join. Our coach is Steve Warren, who is also a member of Surf City Yacht Club and actually coaches me in C420s in the summer as well. We have ten members on the team right now, several of whom have been on the team for multiple years as well as a few new, younger members that are learning really quickly. We are lucky enough to be able to practice closer to home and have practices two times a week at Surf City Yacht Club. After taking the Surf City school bus to the yacht club, we typically start practice with a chalk talk with Steve and then sail for around an hour and a half to two hours, or as long as we can. Since we only have at most four boats that are all in varying conditions, we spend most of our time on the water working on individual boat handling and speed with long upwinds and downwinds and doing maneuvers whenever Steve blows his whistle. After practice we usually wrap up with another one of Steve's chalk talks to clear up any questions we might have and for him to show us any videos that he took or explain anything that he noticed on the water.
3) You were a really good Optimist sailor, and you have now transitioned to the Club 420. Why did you choose the Club 420? Talk to me about the dynamic of sailing with a crew. I chose to go into the Club 420 because I was really interested in the boat and the fact that it is sailed by two people. My brother had also transitioned to the Club 420 and seeing how much fun he was having and the interesting aspects of the boat made the C420 the obvious choice for me. I think that the dynamic between skipper and crew is really important and having a good relationship on the boat is the key to doing well. I have learned over the past few years that communication is the most of important thing while sailing, and that without it a boat's overall performance starts to break down. Being comfortable with my crew and trusting him or her to do their part while I do mine is something that I didn't really understand at first, but as I have progressed I have learned that trust in the boat is really valuable. Sharing the experience of sailing with another person is something that I really enjoy, and I am very glad that I chose the C420.
4) Last summer you were part of the Surf City YC 420 team. I know you practiced on home waters, but you spent a lot of the time on the road. What events did you do? Which event did you perform the best at? Last summer my team traveled to many different regattas and spent a large part of the summer away from home. It was really fun and an amazing experience. Starting at the end of June, I sailed in the New Englands, Canadian Nationals, Nationals, Ida Lewis, CJ Buckley Team Race, and North Americans. I actually spent two weeks away from home at the end of July to the beginning of August going from Ida Lewis straight to CJ Buckley and then straight to North Americans. The event that I preformed the best at was Ida Lewis, which was an all girls regatta that I competed in with my friend Brooke Schmelz. Though we dropped a little bit at the end of the last day, we still finished in the top ten in a competitive fleet that was really close in points. This regatta was my favorite one that I competed in all summer because it consisted of a two day clinic prior to the event and all of the girls that were part of it stayed with host families and spent the week being coached by very prestigious coaches and meeting lots of other top female sailors.
5) You're a junior in high school right now, and I'm sure you're starting to think about colleges. Do you plan to sail in college? I won't make you tell me the schools you are looking at, but what are exactly are you looking for when you are choosing your college? I am planning to sail in college, but it is not my top priority when it comes to choosing which school I want to go to. A school's sailing is something that will definitely factor in to my decision, and I hope that the school I want will have a good team, but the main thing that I am looking for in a school is if they have a good program for my major and if the school will be a good fit for me academically and socially.