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

AnIdiot

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Really? UK clubs seem to be doing OK to me.
It's a popular narrative. I think the way that the youth pathway has developed has affected clubs in different ways,  some have been badly impacted by members spending time away from the club supporting their kids,  others have capitalised on the opportunities presented. 

 It's a dynamic environment,  though... the pathway system adapts,  the families adapt... ultimately most clubs adapt,  too.

 

dogwatch

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Popular, certainly. I think it's based on a fallacy: that families ambitious for the sailing careers of their children would otherwise be at the club. It's more likely that many would otherwise be on the national or international open circuits, or involve themselves in another sport with highly structured youth pathways such as tennis. At one time neighbours of ours had a son on the cusp of joining the tennis pro circuit and the time they spent taxi-ing him from one tournament or coaching session to the next made Optimist Parent look like Deadbeat Dad. And no, in the end, their son didn't make it. 

 
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crashtack

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Imagine if instead of 20 hyper-short races in C420s without chutes on random Saturdays in the fall, there were multiple collegiate regattas with Olympic class boats in olympic competition format. Would it cost more? yes. Would this require colleges to send trailers and do boat setup beforehand and breakdown afterwards? yes. Would practice get more complicated? somewhat. 

Wouldn't it, however, result in better prep for the Olympics with more college sailors getting a chance to try the boats in real competition and actually get good at these classes of boats? The cream would rise to the top as opposed to whoever has the deepest pockets, and there would be much more competition for spots on the Olympic team and a greater chance for success. 

The crazy thing is that the best funding in sailing on a per linear foot is in sports boats. How much did the past 4 J70 world champions each spend in the 3 years prior to their win to make their win happen? If any of the egos involved in those expenditure could have their names on making Olympic gold happen for the US with a high degree of probability for success, would they buy in?
You're misunderstanding how (and why) college sailing works. College sailing in the US isn't about high-performance racing or international dinghy development. Its about one thing only: accessibility, and the format can't exactly be radically changed without undermining that.

College sailing in the US is meant to level the playing field, both between programs and sailors. It works in such a way that even the most cash-strapped club teams can feasibly have a fleet and race against others in equal machinery, and that even the most novice of walk-on freshmen who have never seen a dinghy before can feasibly join the team and learn how to competitively sail in only a couple of years.

In the US, college sailing is perhaps the only time in a sailor's career where they will have access to coaching, practice, and top-tier racing in equal boats FOR FREE.* That's the entire premise behind college racing, and that's what it does very well. Trying to shoehorn in olympic class racing in college (other than lasers - there is already a singlehanded circuit in the fall) is like trying to make the america's cup a fleet race in Sonars. It's not a good idea because it is counter to everything college sailing is trying to be, and would completely exclude less-developed teams and sailors.

I personally know and have sailed with dozens of people who started off in the sport in college. The real trouble is keeping them in after graduation, when sailing opportunities rapidly fall off.

 
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tillerman

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and going back a bit further... both John Bertrand and Robbie Doyle had degrees from MIT.  Also, HOW ABOUT THAT Gabrielle Thomas getting bronze in the 200M???  Harvard Neuro bio major.  Pretty badass right there.
Anna Tunnicliffe graduated with a double major in Decision Sciences and Accounting from Old Dominion University and was a three-time ICSA (college sailing)  national champion.

 

crashtack

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Junior Sailing is the problem.  Kids are completely ruined before they get to college.

Most kids are sailing in boring over simplified boats in large regattas starting at age 7.  There is no tuning, just show and go.  Mom and dad (and coaches) clean the boat, prep it while junior gets poodled up in his Zhik gear and $100 sunglasses, energy bars, sports drinks and hits the water.  Does that sound like sailing as a kid to anyone over 40? 

Kids are not sailing just for fun - achievement over enjoyment - they rarely sail or practice outside the program and the programs are usually massively time consuming anyway.  Most are "over it" by age 15 and won't sail recreationally because they compete in events with 50 boats so why sail against 15 - they see it as a step into the unknown without their support network. 

In the 80's - we sailed for fun, to get around, and to compete.  We played baseball and soccer in yards and at school fields.  We played organized sports less than kids do now.  We learn how to sail, not just how to race.   Kids were well rounded.    In 1984, The USA medaled in every olympic sailing event and today, we have two 40 year olds sailing the 470 primarily because no one under 40 in the entire country cared to challenge them and we did not earn a spot in the 49er!

It is culture - the desire to try is gone for many kids sucked out of them by helicopter parents and the "everyone gets a medal" environment.  There are exceptions, as we just kicked everyone's butt in the 420 worlds, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.  

 
I'll add one more thing... College racing format is boring, BORING. Why do people drop out of sailing... lots of reasons, but boring is definitely one of them. Some of these kids will spend 10 years of their lives -10 YEARS - in the same general class of boats. Many of the top sailors coming out of college have NO other sailing skills and can't even tune a I420 for international competition let alone a 470 or god forbid a 49er or even a keel boat. 
This just plain isn't true. There are few top sailors in college today that haven't sailed international classes or keelboats. If you look at nationals results, I can guarantee that this is the case for every single winner in the last 10 years.

Confusing correlation with causation - "back in the 80s we all sailed for fun and somehow still won all the medals!" - is probably why US sailing is in such a dire state right now. Oh, and Stu and David aren't in the Olympics because no one else tried to challenge them - plenty of younger sailors want that spot. Stu just happens to be a 3x olympian and a professional sailor. Oh, and a Yale graduate and ICSA all-american.

In the US we have an almost religious devotion to a junior sailing format that is clearly inadequate.  In our system, all kids MUST sail Optis until they're 15, at which point they MUST sail C420's, which they basically sail until they are about 21 or 22 through college.  The odd FJ or Lark is thrown in there, but 99% of competitive sailors have never seen a bendy rig until after they exit college.  That's just plain dumb.  If you look back to when the US was either dominant or comfortably competitive, none of those sailors had backgrounds resembling what we have today.  Sure all countries sail Optis, but after that,  other countries force a narrative that where only shit boat like the 420 are part of the story..... also the money obviously, but I truly believe that competitive youth sailing as it exists now is beyond dumb.  My daughters are going to be sailing boats with bendy rigs long before they are 14.
Also a strange assumption. The US has somewhat strong and growing i420 and 29er fleets (not to mention lasers). No one is forcing kids to sail optis until they're 15 and then c420s. The switch to c420s is common simply because it is more accessible. To be competitive in i420s or 29ers requires buying the best boats (plural) from the best builders and traveling to europe at least a couple of times a year to participate in international regattas (not to mention the coaching).

c420s (and lasers) are miles easier to get into because of the large, strong domestic fleet that doesn't require very much travel and club programs that allow for training and coaching at a reasonable price. Once again, it all comes down to money.

yup... Miami and Florida in general is where all of this BS started.  After I had gone through 3 years of junior sailing, sailing Dyer Dhows, Flying Terns, Lasers, Rhodes 19's and a few other odd types of boats, I switched programs, and I was forced into sailing Optis, which I really resented at the time, because I had seen them during Marblehead Race Week and thought that they were pretty lame.  At any rate my dad, being who he is, figured out that the epicenter of Opti sailing was centered in Florida, specifically in St Pete, Ft Lauderdale, Clearwater and Miami.  Within half a year he was secretary of the class, and my brother and I were racing in Florida on weekends all winter long, usually playing hooky on Fridays and sometimes Mondays.  That was the beginning of the end for the US being competitive in Olympic sailing, because along with the Opti drowning out all other jr sailing boats came the C420.  In the short time I raced Optis, I saw the class go from a more or less Florida only phenomenon to guaranteed over 100 boats on the line at any decent event up and down the eastern seaboard; during this time the Sabot took a back seat to the Opti in a few short years (thankfully the Californians have kept the Sabot and the El Toro around as they are both superior to the Opti)   Years later, when hired as a private coach, I was in disbelief at what the scene had devolved into.... Sometimes 300+ boats, possibly the majority of kids not actually rigging their own boats, insane armadas of parents and South American coaches in giant RIBs shadowing the fleet from behind marked off boundaries (because if they weren't there...) and on top of that SI's that have to have verbiage that mandates coaches helping kids in distress that aren't under their tutelage.  

Almost all of the best sailors I know did not follow the current US system.  If you listen to Dave Kirkpatrick's excellent 505 Podcast you will hear some of the best dinghy sailors on the planet talk about how they came up in sailing, and 100% of the time these sailors describe an experience that is completely foreign from the JR sailing experience that currently exists.  Thankfully some people recognize what has happened, and developments like the Open bic are positive, however, single classes are not going to fix the systemic issue that exists.  Clubs, programs and school programs need to have the wisdom to choose quirky boats, or at least have sailors experience a whole lot more than they currently do before they turn 20.  
Comparing olympians 30 years ago to olympians today is a bit laugh worthy. Most (if not all) of the US olympic team went through junior sailing (at the very least optis) in the US, and I am willing to bet that most of the medalists this year did the same. What is wrong with a large, competitive U15 dinghy fleet? For many kids, that's their first taste of high-level, international racing.

Promoting "alternate" boats such as the open bic (which is a joke btw) is not how the US becomes good at olympic sailing again.

 

fastyacht

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I created my sailing team in college. As cradhtsck says, that would br impodsiblr except for the *mission* of it all. And great thanks to Ann Campbell all those decades ago.

I was the *only* actual salty sailor on our team. I recruited at the student activities fairv every fall: petite women with sporty natures were most important to recruit--to keep the 420 properly trimmed.

We even managed to win a few (small) events with no boats or practise. Those were the days. Good days too.

 
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Mozzy Sails

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In the UK Uni sailing and Olympic pathway are completely separate. Pretty much the last place British Sailing are looking for medal talent is in the uni scene. 

Uni sailing is great social during uni and if it serves no more purpose other than that, then it's done it's job. But it also retains some sailors in the UK who then do adult fleet racing, which is also good. The big drop off is really boat ownership as young professionals  / students can't afford boats for fleet racing. 

However, the Olympic pathway is different. The funding comes from Sport England and the Lottery. This enables 18-25 year olds to live a semi-pro lifestyle until either they make it or go and get a job / degree. This is also where the University bursaries are, you don't get them for competing for the uni, the get them for competing for the GBR. But, this is also a very small percentage of the sailors, the top 1%. Just enough to make up a decent talent pool for crew swaps and training camps, but no more. Also, the sailors who tend to drop out of this can be pretty burnt out and in terms of retention in the sport long term isn't a model example. 

 

frostbit

Anarchist
You're misunderstanding how (and why) college sailing works. College sailing in the US isn't about high-performance racing or international dinghy development. Its about one thing only: accessibility, and the format can't exactly be radically changed without undermining that.

College sailing in the US is meant to level the playing field, both between programs and sailors. It works in such a way that even the most cash-strapped club teams can feasibly have a fleet and race against others in equal machinery, and that even the most novice of walk-on freshmen who have never seen a dinghy before can feasibly join the team and learn how to competitively sail in only a couple of years.

In the US, college sailing is perhaps the only time in a sailor's career where they will have access to coaching, practice, and top-tier racing in equal boats FOR FREE.* That's the entire premise behind college racing, and that's what it does very well. Trying to shoehorn in olympic class racing in college (other than lasers - there is already a singlehanded circuit in the fall) is like trying to make the america's cup a fleet race in Sonars. It's not a good idea because it is counter to everything college sailing is trying to be, and would completely exclude less-developed teams and sailors.

I personally know and have sailed with dozens of people who started off in the sport in college. The real trouble is keeping them in after graduation, when sailing opportunities rapidly fall off.
You make a fair point, and I also know many top-flight sailors who came through college sailing. Perhaps there is a path for both channels.

There is another complication for the less accomplished college sailors who do not keep up with sailing after graduation. Many times they try to compete in other formats and find the skills sets they learned to be narrow and not easily transferable to other formats. Some get discouraged and don't pursue any further. 

 

Couta

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Hey Mozzie - how much money did the GBR squad get to mount this years olympic campaign? AUS spent AUD$40M for 2 gold medals...

 

Couta

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As an observer (and a major sponsor of US Intercollegiate sailing for a quite a while in the 90's 000's) I'd say that the changes of boats in the lympix has also had an effect. The IC squad pathway worked ok when the lympics classes were "traditional" and results were based on tactical sailing....The IC teams sailed in local comps with shitter boats... but it taught strategy, rules and tactical advantage....and when the hot prospects were identified from these programs, they were given cash and sent out to buy the boatspeed. The results were OK. Today, the lympix classes demand specialised boat skills...so buying boatspeed won't get you there...you need time in the class...and those classes don't actually exist as fleets anywhere except in the SA sanctioned calendar (Lasers are the exception). So you need to have a well funded squad that travel the world with full coaching support on a near full time basis....that's the new model. SO....the USA have a long way to go to catch up...and a lot of money to spend..if they want to play in the arms race that is lympic sailing.  

 

tillerman

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In the UK Uni sailing and Olympic pathway are completely separate. Pretty much the last place British Sailing are looking for medal talent is in the uni scene. 

Uni sailing is great social during uni and if it serves no more purpose other than that, then it's done it's job. But it also retains some sailors in the UK who then do adult fleet racing, which is also good. The big drop off is really boat ownership as young professionals  / students can't afford boats for fleet racing. 

However, the Olympic pathway is different. The funding comes from Sport England and the Lottery. This enables 18-25 year olds to live a semi-pro lifestyle until either they make it or go and get a job / degree. 
Amen!

 

frostbit

Anarchist
I'll add one more thing... College racing format is boring, BORING. Why do people drop out of sailing... lots of reasons, but boring is definitely one of them. Some of these kids will spend 10 years of their lives -10 YEARS - in the same general class of boats. Many of the top sailors coming out of college have NO other sailing skills and can't even tune a I420 for international competition let alone a 470 or god forbid a 49er or even a keel boat. 
This just plain isn't true. There are few top sailors in college today that haven't sailed international classes or keelboats. If you look at nationals results, I can guarantee that this is the case for every single winner in the last 10 years.
My point here isn't that everyone finds it boring, but it is definitely selecting for a certain kind/size of sailor. It is boring to sail in the same boats over and over again in the same format over and over again. Agreed that the top sailors seek and find opportunities to sail outside of that format. That is one reason why they are the top sailors; b/c they don't stick to just that format. Overall, though, not disagreeing with you. 

 

fastyacht

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You make a fair point, and I also know many top-flight sailors who came through college sailing. Perhaps there is a path for both channels.

There is another complication for the less accomplished college sailors who do not keep up with sailing after graduation. Many times they try to compete in other formats and find the skills sets they learned to be narrow and not easily transferable to other formats. Some get discouraged and don't pursue any further. 
"Getting discoirsged" because of losing is all good. I have made a career of losing and eill not give up

 
kind of hard to blame the opti when literally the entire world uses it. What the entire world does not do is use high school and college sailing as a fundamental part of a young adults sailing time. There is no way around this, and there is no option for "let's use olympic boats in college". The college I went to could probably afford it, along with a some of NEISA, Stanford, Michigan, and maybe USF -- and of course Navy/KP. 

Before college I used to think it was stupid not to have adjustable rigs, kites, and traps. After college, I realize the constraints most universities operate under, locations, plus the format of racing. ICSA will never support olympic sailing directly, and i doubt it does indirectly. 

The c420 sucks, but it serves its purpose adequately for collegiate (high school and college). But, begging the question from my first paragraph... does collegiate sailing benefit Olympic sailing? hell no. Does it benefit American sailing? Maybe. At least with the IC37 pulling heavily from current and ex college sailing participants. But... I really question if that focus for inclusion is benefiting the long term growth of the sport (i believe that is a stated purpose of collegiate sailing, why else be inclusive, at any rate).  

At the end of the day, I will argue the biggest impendent is olympic funding, though. By a wide, wide, wide, wide, go the cone, wide, wide , wide, margin. To put your life on hold, beg for money, get no support from USSOT until you've proven you probably don't even need their support, to compete for a slot against those who are about as good as you but are independently wealthy... fuck, why bother. If you're that good and want to sail, go get paid to sail 52's, amcup, whatever. 

 
It is not the boats it is the early stage training construct. 

We are training kids to sail like we train adults - in a robotic repetitive way that is far from age appropriate.  We start at an age when most want to grow up and be either a power ranger or a firefighter.  Then we wonder why they are not sailing for life.  

Boats, funding, college sailing... all valid points but the real issue is how we pass on the passion for sailing to children at an age when they are able to develop that passion.  The lather, rinse, repeat model is obviously not working.

We need to start creating sailors for life, then we can create Olympic champions.   Fun over achievement will deliver greatness down the road - athlete development is a marathon not a sprint. 

 

fastyacht

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An intrtesting questin. How many of my Jinior fleet freinds from allc tjose years ago are as insatiably addicted to sailing as me?

And tje kids I taugjt in thr 80s....jow mnay are sailing?

These are questions wr couofd all ask ourselved

 
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KC375

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...  Its literally the difference between being a professional vs amateur athlete.  The gap is massive....
I think it comes down to how you pay professional athletes and the costs to support them...

Some countries and some sports favour the tax payer (or in the case of lotos a more complicated tax on stupidity or fantasy) paying, others prefer the audience/consumer/marketing partner pay.

I’m a fan of sailing, but as a taxpayer I have other priorities than sailing (or any other Olympic sport).

 

clubsailor12

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Have not posted in a very very long time - here is a reply to like 80 of your replies.

I grew up in Philadelphia - Jon Wright was the mainsheet trimmer for Dennis back then and lived in, wait for it Ardmore(just outside Philly). Jon MacCasland was at Cooper River and lived just outside Philly (Star World Champ). Marsh Creek and Cooper River suck ass - but JW and Little Mac and the host of others who used to show up, sometimes Max Skelly - made it amazing Laser sailing. Long time gone by now.........move!

Having watched nearly 1/5 of my college team contemplate Olympic pathways in the 90s at Tufts, the cost was just staggering to me back then, and these are families of elite east coast/ or CA families - many who just have better or other options and recognized Olympic US sailing is just a shit show. Many were super talented, but competing against Lottery funded RYA and Australia and the tight geographical and cultural advantages of Denmark/Norway/Sweden/Germany/Spain/France seemed daunting and it still is.

I mean Germany won 3 medals, They host Keil Week and have like a trillion 420 and optimist and skiff sailors, they can drive to Hyeres, Marseilles, Spain etc, train to the UK, you just cant overstate this, a club sailor when they are 15 can go to Keil Week and sail against the best in the world and drive home on Sunday night. Germany has great funding too and it is really working.

Other that, individuallism must also play here, Americans try to cowboy and be the hero on there own too often - the team needs to keep the knowledge pathways alive, in the USA, as we turn over coaches and sailors, we have to relearn how to win in each class....and coach them.

For me its

1. Funding

2. Geography and Culture 

3. Individualism gone awry

 




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