Will long-term commitments and new funding result in Olympic success?
If one thing has become evident in Olympic sailing, it’s that experience counts. No longer can a sailor decide to throw his or her hat into the ring a couple of years in advance of the next Games and hope to medal. Olympic sailing is now a full-time job, with highly professional campaigns spanning multiple Olympiads—especially abroad where teams often receive substantial government support.
Unfortunately, despite its long history of Olympic success, the United States has been slow to join the rest of the world in elevating its game to this whole new level. However, it looks like that may be changing. Not only did the US Sailing Team recently institute a new “pipeline” under the leadership of former director Josh Adams, whereby it nurtures those same young sailors it hopes will someday prevail as medalists. But under the current leadership of Australian two-time Olympic medalist, Malcolm Page, it appears the team’s more experienced sailors are also now willing to do what it takes, i.e., stick around long enough to acquire the skills necessary for success.
As evidence of this fact, the roster for the 2017 US Sailing Team includes a number of veterans from the 2016 Olympics in Rio, including Laser sailor Charlie Buckingham, Laser Radial sailor Paige Railey, 470 sailors Stuart McNay and David Hughes and Nacra 17 sailors Bora Gulari and Helena Scutt. Finn sailor Caleb Paine is also expected to take a stab at the upcoming 2020 Games in Tokyo after enjoying some time off following his bronze-medal performance in Rio.
“Being named to your national team in any sport is a distinct honor, but it is also important to realize that these athletes have embraced a long-term commitment to excellence,” Page says. “Each of these sailors has committed to a comprehensive training and competition plan for 2017. We want our roster to feature athletes who are internationally competitive, progressing in their training plans and committed to reaching the top of the podium.”
Complementing this increased level of commitment on the part of the sailors is the recently announced Oakcliff Triple Crown—a series of six international regattas being organized by Oakcliff Sailing on Long Island Sound that will provide winners in five of the 10 Olympic classes with grants to help them defray the costs of their campaigns. Specifically, sailors in the 49er, 49erFX, Men’s 470, Women’s 470 and Nacra 17 classes will all race for $100,000 in each class, with the option of additional bonuses.
“Raising the level of competitive excellence in the United States is at the core of Oakcliff’s mission,” says Dawn Riley, executive director of Oakcliff Sailing. “By creating the Triple Crown Series, we hope to help revitalize high-performance one-design racing here at home, and provide real benefits to Tokyo medal hopefuls and first-time campaigners alike.”
Photos courtesy of Jen Edney/US Sailing