US isn’t competitive in medal chase at Tokyo 2020 because…

Tcatman

Super Anarchist
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Chesapeake Bay
@Tcatman

There is a definite college sailing => adult attrition. I think people moving from where they went to college or grew up sailing to more landlocked areas is one cause (I'm one of them, I don't have the facilities to deal with dinghies right now and I don't want to drive two hours every time I want to sail it or deal with boatwork), and..... money money money and time time time.

I'm really lucky with the job I have, it gives me the days off I ask for to go play with sailboats. I don't have the money to commit to my other hobbies and sailing, so I've elected to ride along on leadboats for the last several years since college, but myself and many other friends from college sailing still enjoy getting out and racing. I don't think most people have that time. Especially for dinghies. Especially for travelling to dinghy regattas. 
Hmm.... not the rousing testament to HS and College Sailors reinventing or adding to, or creating new racing activities that they want... AFTER what 30 years..

Everyone has heard the excuses and they are plausible and reasonable.  Perhaps they are just so stories and that is why change or evolution is marginal over 30 years...  We won't know unless you take a hard look.   I was just looking for some data.... now I would settle for some anecdotes.  It seems to me... that somebody would have a really great rebuttal.. to my College Sailing.... underwhelming impact thesis.   

What I  actually see are  articles like this piece https://www.sailingworld.com/racing/a-cultural-barrier-to-more-women-in-sailing/      (and then read the comments).

Not a lot positives out of that article  and once again... it is plausible and reasonable....  and perhaps another  just so story as to why things are this way.

My point.... a careful look at how the US structure of HS and college sailing is working or not working  in the very different world of adult racing is warranted..  (Cayard will try what he wants for Olympic classes)  The marine industry will take care of the recreational sailors.

 
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frostbit

Anarchist
Many of the best US college tennis players who dont make the upper echelons of the tennis tour go on to become successful tennis coaches and instructors around the country as a full time adult career.

Many of the best US college sailors who do not reach the upper echelons of professional sailing go on to become successful investment bankers, lawyers, doctors and real estate developers.

Compare the average age of the tennis coaches at  your US yacht club to the average age of your sailing instructors.
That is absolutely spot on. Even the very successful who do reach the pinnacle of sailing (America's Cup for instance) end up as bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc. 

 
Sorry to chime in here late, but college sailing is a disaster.  We can look at it and say look at all these new sailors who we bring in to the sport, but how many of those 'new' sailors stick with sailing after college?  Most of those 'new' sailors who were on our sailing team dont sail after college and have zero interest because they get on something other than a 420 or FJ, and are lost and not interested any more.  Id also say a good chunk of the kids who knew how to sail and planned on sailing in college gave up sailing after college for similar reasons.  You spend 4 (or 8 if you come from high school sailing) of the best years to race hard in boring old boats.  On top of that, lets spend every weekend from September 1 to Nov 1, and Valentines Day until June doing 10 short races per weekend.  Sure you can say they do 20 but each skipper/crew combo does 10 races and watches the rest.  I get it, boats are expensive and only some schools can have two fleets of 20 but why are we switching out boats every two races?  Why not have 2 regattas at 2 different locations and do twice as many races?  Come in for lunch/halftime every day to give people a break, but really, these teams spend how much money/time going to events to sit around half the day?

Sure, there are some (4? 5?)  Laser events in college sailing which do sort of feed US Sailing, but thats it.  Skiffs are complicated but fun. Same with what ever cat is in the Olympics and 470s, but they are exciting.  I was decent in college, and when one of the top sailor missed practice Id get their crew.  These were All Americans skippers crews, they knew nothing and it would take a race or two to get them to contribute because I had to beg them to help get the boat around the race course.  These kids spent an unknown number of hours in boats with really good sailors, and barely knew how to race, no wonder they disappear after college sailing.  Get them in a dumbed down 470 where they have to learn how to do things, like fly a spinnaker.   Get them in a 29er or 49erFX so they learn to do things and how to actually sail, not just sit there and hike.

This isnt about billionaires getting involved (thought it would help), its about everyone wanting to show up and win, and forgetting about having fun.  Im 40lbs too heavy for a Moth, but I got one and had a blast today learning how to sail it.  I would of bought a 49er, but I couldnt find one in my price range.  Only option was a 49er Fx in Montreal, and I was told that I would be big for it.  Do I stand a chance at 37 years old having not sailed for 10 years in a Moth or 49er, no, but it would of been a ton of fun.  If we get enough people who just want to have fun on sailboats, not slog around in a J70 and be miserable, we will be competitive in Olympic classes some day, until then, be miserable in under powered slow boats.

The other option, and I give the Lightning class huge credit for this, get more girls involved in Olympic classes.  You get girls involved in Olympic classes, and I bet the class will explode in popularity.  The Lightning class worked hard to get more girls involved 15 years ago, look what followed, the class had an influx of new people. 

Side note, get rid of the wind surfers too, I cant think of anything more boring to watch and like F1 showed the US with Drive to Survive, if its not fun to watch and interesting, Americans arnt going to pay attention.  Maybe a mixed 4 person, 2 (max) male 2-4 female small boat?  Or maybe US Sailing needs to get Netflix to do a Sailing version of Drive to Survive?

 
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robalex117

Super Anarchist
Side note, get rid of the wind surfers too, I cant think of anything more boring to watch and like F1 showed the US with Drive to Survive, if its not fun to watch and interesting, Americans arnt going to pay attention.  Maybe a mixed 4 person, 2 (max) male 2-4 female small boat?  Or maybe US Sailing needs to get Netflix to do a Sailing version of Drive to Survive?
Have you seen the iQfoil in action.  Anything but boring.  And now sailors being  a little bigger is helpful so more people can be competitive.    Skip to 43:40 for some real action.  And this was early days in the class.  Getting better all the time.




 
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Going to join here with a late but somewhat contrarian opinion. 

Most of the points made here about college sailing, and local fleet numbers, big boat sailing etc are IMO largely correct, but I think the point about funding is slightly off. 

Olympic sailors in the US aren't lacking money, in fact a lot of them probably have far more funding than competitors from other countries as a result of the sailing 'interested' demographic in the US. I'd be willing to wager that the average income of US sailing families is significantly higher than that in any other developed country. Many of the US Olympic campaigners spend money like it's going out of fashion.

The problem isn't the money, it's the source of the money. In every other 'medal factory' country, 90%+ of the top sailor's funding comes from a federation/government body. When you sign that contract, you have to follow their rules. This usually means training together with your fellow countrymen (read Olympic spot competition) for the betterment of the country's chances of winning a medal regardless of who ultimately goes to the Games. 

In the last quad, the US had at least two classes where there were two separate teams who as it were, would be able to be in the medal race at the Olympics (Laser Men and FX). But they never worked or trained together. Each of these teams had enough private funding that they were able to hire a full time private coach, compete at every event, and have more than enough equipment for the campaign. If you have two top-10 potential teams working together day in, day out for the whole quad, you have a very good chance of medalling at the end of it. 

 

Bored Stiff

Member
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Copenhagen
The focus on collegiate racing in the US seems, from afar, to bring two problems.  
1. It isn’t competitive enough (or the right format) to create Olympic champions. 
2. It is too competitive for casual club racing, so general dinghy racing participation numbers are low.  

 

AnIdiot

Member
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321
Second Drawer
The focus on collegiate racing in the US seems, from afar, to bring two problems.  
1. It isn’t competitive enough (or the right format) to create Olympic champions. 
2. It is too competitive for casual club racing, so general dinghy racing participation numbers are low.  
Indeed.

 It doesn't really matter whether you are talking about clubs, Olympics, recruitment, retention, performance, equipment or just about any other aspect of the sport/hobby: If the answer is "college sailing", then the wrong question is being asked.

 

[email protected]

Super Anarchist
2,249
190
USA
The focus on collegiate racing in the US seems, from afar, to bring two problems.  
1. It isn’t competitive enough (or the right format) to create Olympic champions. 
2. It is too competitive for casual club racing, so general dinghy racing participation numbers are low.  
I have no idea what this even means, but the purpose of college sailing is not to "create olympic champions".

if you look at the mens and womens college sailors of the year over the last 30 years, many of enjoyed wide success in the sport after college sailing.

as for #2, college sailing outside a couple hotspots is quite similar to "casual club racing"

 
Where is college sailing similar to "casual club racing?"  Most casual club racing involves spinnakers and races that last longer than 15 min.  Where does "casual club racing" involve identical boats that dont let the good sailors separate with better tactics and boat speed, courses that have .3 mile legs, and an over emphasis on awkward boat handling of overbuilt 1955 (FJ) and 1959 (420) boats.  We need to stop sailing old boats.  There has been a few design evolutions since then 30/40/50/60s.  The boats, just like the two fleet ever other race format, are old and outdated.  Cool, the boats are durable, and the racing allows for the best short course team to win, why does that matter when no one else races like that?

I 100% agree dinghy racing has low numbers everywhere in the country.  I think it is because of a over emphasis on putting as many slips in marinas/clubs for big boats instead of giving up 4/6/8 of those slips to make a platform for making dinghy sailing easier.  How many clubs have we been to that have huge dock systems or mooring fields for members to tie up their big boats, only to have a small back corner of the parking lot dedicated to dinghy sailing.  They have huge parking lots, only to have 10 dry sail slips.  Why is this?  If you are going to tell me that 6 big boat slips for 6 members is really bringing in more money to the club than 10 or more dinghy sailors who would use that same square footage, Id ask you to prove it.  The big boat sailors use those boats and the club how many times a year, compared to the dinghy sailor?  I see boats that show up in the spring after they are launched, then never leave the dock all summer, and only leave to go get hauled out in the fall.  Why do they get a slip when that same 40ft by 16ft platform could be used to launch how many lasers, windsurfers, kites, or moths? 

Id also say for some classes, there is a lack of access to the boats in the USA.  How many clubs can you try a 29er/49erFX/49er?  Do we need more builders?  Do we need people/clubs to buy boats?  If you want a club level competitive Laser, they are easy to find.  Good luck looking for a used 29er or either version of a 49er for sale.  Last time I looked there was 1 49er for sale in SoCal, and 5 for sale in Canada.  Do we need a North American builder?  Maybe there will be boats available after Worlds.

 

Bored Stiff

Member
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191
Copenhagen
I have no idea what this even means, but the purpose of college sailing is not to "create olympic champions".

if you look at the mens and womens college sailors of the year over the last 30 years, many of enjoyed wide success in the sport after college sailing.

as for #2, college sailing outside a couple hotspots is quite similar to "casual club racing"
I’m sorry you have comprehension issues.  Let me put it more simply for you:

College sailing sucks. ;)

 
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Francisco

Member
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4
For any nation to be successful, the key is identifying the talent early and fostering their potential.  Talent doesn't always come from money, at some point everyone has to make the choice between chasing their dreams or face the reality of getting educated and finding a career path outside of the Olympics.  If we don't actively support the rising stars from a young age what we end up with is those who can afford to continue down this path, leaving us with less naturally talented athletes who potentially are not fit to handle the pressure of representing their country. I believe this is where the United States finds itself in the sailing medal race today.

My suggestion is to build a financial structure that can provide opportunities to our most naturally gifted youth sailors, building a team of the top sailors from each region of the United States and offering them the same opportunities for equipment, housing, coaching and travel.  Do this for a couple Olympic cycles and let the cream rise to the top.

Think of it as a scholarship type structure for our most talented, instead of attending University they attend training camps and regattas.  The idea is to allow them to focus on their training and let the adults worry about how to pay for it all...

Start with national champions in the most active junior classes in the United States and go on from there.  Catch the future college sailors of the year before they become college sailors of the year...focus these athletes on the Olympic classes and international sailing competition before its too late... 

If we're successful, these athletes will have careers beyond the Olympics when they age out...

 

Bill5

Right now
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Western Canada
I’m sorry you have comprehension issues.  Let me put it more simply for you:

College sailing sucks. ;)
From an earlier post, here is a good piece from US Sailing on college sailing. Nobody is kidding anyone - they refer to college sailing as Dirt Track vs Youth Sailing’s Grand Prix.

https://www.ussailing.org/news/dear-youth-sailors-sincerely-college-sailing/

However, repeating myself, with 200 collegiate teams, I still believe that there are some diamonds in the rough. They aren’t all just drinking beer. Every coach could be a scout for the Olympic program.

 
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As someone who just came out of collegiate sailing and has sat in on many of the meetings with collegiate coaches and teams, I definitely agree that the biggest issue is types of boats being sailed.

I cannot count the number of times it has been brought up during a meeting where someone says something along the lines of "well we have these FJs and 420s that are capable of running spinnakers, so why don't we just add spinnakers". I definitely think that adding spinnakers to FJs and 420s would help massively to amp things up and make it more interesting; however, the reality is that while the big teams that are actually competing for spots at nationals may be able to afford the extra equipment, there are so many smaller club level collegiate teams that are barely scraping through to fund the team and spinnakers would frankly would just essentially price them out of practicing as sad as it sounds.

From more recent meetings, I would say that the biggest push in attempt to close the gap between olympic and collegiate sailing has been to introduce dropping your lowest score from a regatta weekend. I believe there have also been some trials I believe to play with rules around kinetics, something like the olympic 470 and finn where kinetics would be allowed above a certain wind speed. The reality is that these changes that close the gap to olympic sailing are going to come in these small changes here and there rather than a change to the class of boats being raced.

That article Bill5 linked is really great and really highlights some key problems. You have these varsity teams such as the Ivy League schools who are so incredibly well funded with team embroidered gear etc, then you have these smaller club level teams that are racing with ripped drysuits, all competing in one field. I definitely think it is beneficial to have them all racing against one another because it allows any particularly talented sailors who end up at smaller teams to still be able to compete against the big teams, but it does not happen too often that a small team ends up contending for spots against large well funded teams. You also have the problem of leadership, all these smaller club teams are essentially playing by the rules set by the varsity teams. They are the ones with esesentially the most say in the league, and they craft the rules around themselves unfortunately.

Finally there is the problem of balancing sailing and college experience. Collegiate sailing is very time intensive, even at only a club level, and you even have sailors having to choose over attending their own graduation or attending nationals. You have the varsity schools that have their dedicated coaches who are being paid to sit in on these meetings, while the club level teams have kids that have been in class all day trying their best to sit in on these long meetings either late at night or some time during the school day.

There are definitely many problems with collegiate sailing and I do not have any specific way to address all these flaws, but just wanted to throw in my point of view as someone who just came out of the scene and was sitting in on monthly meetings among collegiate sailing teams.
 
The little clubs have almost never been competitive in college sailing unless they stumble on two rockstar skippers who carry the program for a few years. The little teams are scrapping together funds just to get to regattas and the big teams have coaches bidding to get into the big events every weekend. That is why the same 20-30 teams are in the rankings and no one knows who the rest of the teams are. Hell, I didnt even realize there were so many teams in college sailing until I read the article. Maybe its time for College Sailing to realize they have a three divisions, and label them as such.

There is no reason some teams (maybe the newly possibly created D1) cant have fleets of boats with spins and some teams (the D2/3 teams) cant. I remember when one of the teams in Boston had a fleet of Nutshells instead of 420s and FJs, no one wanted to go to those regattas. There is nothing keeping Colgate, NYM, KP, Navy, URI, St Marys, etc from getting a fleet of Melges 15s next time they need boats. Im sure the sail makers would love to make 20 heavy Melges 15 kites, and Melges would not complain about getting college kids in the boats early. College sailing doesnt need to switch to International 420s, they should stick with the heavier college 420 hulls, but get spinnakers. Nerf the boats a bit with clips instead of twings for the windward spin sheet for the symmetrical boats, but symmetrical boats are dead, so they should not waste money here and slowly rotate them all out for Melges 15s or Vanguard 15s or what ever 2 person bow sprit boats are out there. Hell, hold a design contest for a new 2 person boat, not that we need to flood the market with more over designed boats when Melges 15s already exist.

Im not saying college sailing should get Moths, International 14s, or 49ers, even though a fleet of 49ers would be cool. Just that college sailing needs to join the 2000s in boat technology, not be stuck in the 1960. Dirt track racing is fun for your clubs weekday night beer can racing. College sailing needs to at least be better, not F1 or the NFL, but an accurate representation of what D1 football or AAA baseball is to their respective sports.
 




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