One of the ironies of this whole "track" in the boats we use now that is being promoted, and identifying it early, is that a guy like Brenner who came to the game relatively late at age 20 would now never have a chance to break into the game at the Olympic level. I keep hearing this refrain about how we have to start identify and putting resources against 12 year olds in Opti's. WTF are we, gynmanstics?
Current thinking seems to be that time on the water is what matters up to the age of 12-14. Doesn't really matter what the boat is, but the more sailing they are doing (real sailing not sitting on the side while some one else does the work and thinking) the more likely it is that they will transition to the next stage successfully. A large part of that is that the kids who are spending a large amount of time on the water are the ones who are compulsive and hooked enough to have the dedication required in their teens to stay focused.
Are the Optimaffia right? No.
Is it likely that the kind of kid you want to find is active in a program like the Optimaffia set-up? They probably are or they're probably the kids of families who spend all their spare time racing small boats with their kids.
It's at 14 and over that the real work starts. The work can start any time until eventually old age will catch ever body up by their mid 30s (and some people keep getting better for longer ... usually the ones who started getting better latter).
The latter you start the more you have to catch up. Will you ever catch up with the very very very very few people (it only takes 1 person to win a gold medal) who have been pedal to the metal since their early teens and managed to keep focused and improving? Probably not.
Could someone start their development through college sailing and catch up with the kind of thing that's going on else where? Once upon a time, when other countries didn't have the kind of programs the have now, yes. These days? Probably not ... in fact even, with all the natural talent in the world, almost certainly not.
College sailing does a great job of teaching kids how to enjoy sailing, how to enjoy sailing with and against other people and how to organize sailing. Generally college sailors are life long sailors in a way that kids exiting at the post Opti stage are almost certainly not (20-30% retention into adult sailing for the Opti sailors vs 80-90% for people who sail at college irrespective of previous sailing experience). It no longer prepares them to medal at the Olympics. Claiming it does or trying to have it do two the two things just lead to ... what you have now.
A group of late bloomers seem to have come to the US scene in the 90s/early 2000s. Given when Dean has said about what he found could it be that there was no quality there to keep them out? They campaigned for Olympic selection, relatively few of them seem to have gone on to an actual Olympic campaign.
They have formed the basis of the Olympic program getting it's shit together and incrementally they have bought through the next group, who are better than they where but fell short at the final measure. And now the next wave is coming, one that's shown the kind of indicators Simon looks for.
Would another approach work? The approach ignores or cast off loads and loads of people who at some point with an equal chance and resources could well have made it. So almost certainly yes. But with a limited amount of money available, not with the same degree of likelihood of having a positive outcome.
So, to sum up your observation Simon, yes, Brenner IS responsible for helping to nurture young talent, and IS responsible for selection of the team that represents the US at the ISAF World Youth Champs.
We have also seen the Optimafia claim that their program is working, because a year ago they couldn't get Andreassen to pay attention to them, but now he is helping to suggest that kids move from the Opti to the Laser 4.7. Utterly brilliant with the obvious. So, up to a year ago, there was seemingly no interaction with the US Sailing Olympic Cmte and the Opti class. Draw your own conclusions.
Sounds logical. Doubt the OC gives a monkeys about Opti sailing. They just want to see kids with hrs move into the laser 4.7 program that will start their Olympic development.
Should an Olympic or high performance program own youth sailing? Absolutely definitely not. The job of the high performance program is to find the 10 people required to medal at the Olympics (or at least that's the standard that is required of them by the baying crowd). They don't give a shit what happens to everyone else, and nor should they. Should they give a shit what happens after the Olympic dream is over? Not a chance .. well only in as much as it prevents people from committing to it unless they can show a mildly attractive exit rout. That's what the US version (f*** taking part it's all about the heavy metal!) of the Olympic dream means and that attitude applied to sailing at large is poisonous.
Does there need to be a hot house for prospective Olympic talent from the age of 14 using equipment that's appropriate for developing the skills needed to compete in the equipment used at the Olympics? If the US is going to match what is going on else where then yes. Should it be owned by it's customers (the people going through it and Olympic program they are being trained for). Who else knows what they want from that program?
Can it be run by the same people who are doing absolutely the right thing for sailing as a sport in general. No, not really not if you want the development program to work. If they do you end up trying to get to the Olympics sailing Club 420.
And that's what it looks like they've done. But only recently enough that the first graduates are only just coming into the Olympic program proper and by Deans own admission not with enough resource to do it properly. And by saying that they've focused on developing the current Olympic sailors as much to form the basis of the program going forward he's saying the general level of everyone in the program still needs to go up a level. Pretty much every one involved on the sailing side needs to be someone who has been an Olympic campaign -- a campaign for Olympic qualification may be the next best thing but you have to be careful as a lot of those that nearly made it tend to be pretty bitter about the things they feel stopped them, rather than focused on the things that the next gen need to do it better) them selves so that the program retains and builds upon it knowledge rather than needing to reinvent it.
That's how the UK program gradually got better and better.