It isn’t every day that one of our alums catapults to national interest, but that is just what happened when Michael Buckley ’00 announced the acceptance of his all-American team out of Long Beach Yacht Club as a challenger for the 2021 America’s Cup. Buckley and his co-founder, Taylor Canfield, formed Stars + Stripes Team USA, the fifth challenger to be accepted by the defending Royal New Zealand Yacht Club for the 36th America’s Cup in 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. Their goal is to build “an inclusive, authentic American team to win the 36th America's Cup and inspire the next generation,” according to their website.
We reached out to Buckley to ask him more about the challenge ahead as he reaches for the highest standard of achievement in his sport.
What was the moment you decided to start Stars + Stripes Team USA?
My co-founder, Taylor Canfield, and I decided to create an all-American, America’s Cup Challenger in March 2017 and have been working on it ever since.
Why an all-American team?
The original intention of the America’s Cup was a friendly competition between countries... we want to get back to those values. We believe the USA is ready to watch a group of American athletes challenge for the America’s Cup.
How does recruiting an all-American team work?
The recruiting process is quite easy and we have found that people want to be involved. The difficult part will be determining the very best people to engage in order to create a winning culture within the team.
What are the immediate next steps for the team?
Right now, we are building a boat in Holland, Michigan, which is really exciting. We are also hosting open tryouts for the sailing team.
At first glance, the boats look intimidating to sail. What can you tell us about the AC75 race yacht and how are you going to learn to sail it?
The good news is that there is not one person on the planet who has sailed an AC75, so we are all on a level playing field. The boats look incredibly cool, and we can’t wait to race them! We will spend most of our time training on a simulator, as well as smaller foiling boats like Moth’s and GC32’s... oh, and we will live in the gym. ;)
What lessons did you learn from coaching growing up? About hard work? Failure? Sportsmanship?
I’ve learned so many things from so many great people in my life and in sport in general. I like to take a lot of my coaching and teamwork style from the Patriots and Bill Belichick: “Do your job” and “No days off,” speak to me very clearly. Tabor coaches Toby Baker, Rob Hurd, and Bill Auerswald helped me in so many ways, I will never be able to repay them! Failure: we all fail at some stage. You have to learn to pick yourself up, make a change, and try again. We can never be afraid to fail. Playing by the rules of life is very important, and sportsmanship was certainly a lesson I learned many times at TA!
As you launch this new campaign, what value do you place on both your Tabor connections and what you learned here?
Tabor was probably the most important experience of my life to date. I came from a modest background. My mom worked three jobs at times to send me to Tabor. It opened my mind to a whole new world, to be honest. First, I am so grateful for my Mother, but Tabor has had an enormous influence on my life, my sailing career, and simply made me a better person. As Toby Baker would say... “the torch is lit.”
I would love to have Tabor and the Tabor family join our team as we attempt to win the 36th America’s Cup. Nothing would make me happier than to bring the America’s Cup to an All School Meeting in 2021 to share it with everyone, but before that can happen there are thousands of hours of hard work ahead for our team at Stars + Stripes Team USA!
As Buckley puts his leadership skills to the test in this venture, we will be following his progress through all the stages of this process. You can follow him directly on the team’s website at https://starsandstripesteamusa.americascup.com.
Michael Buckley '00 is pictured at left with his co-founder Taylor Canfield.