That Was Then, This Is Now

Published on February 21st, 2013

When Charlie McKee, 50, took the job as the High Performance Director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team Sperry Top-Sider, he did so with two Olympic medals already around his neck.

Charlie won the Bronze medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics in the 470 class with John Shadden, and then he and his brother Jonathan tackled the new skiff event, winning a Bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in the 49er class.

Here Charlie reflects on how the level of Olympic competition has changed since his medal winning campaigns…

“I think that the 2000 Olympics were a watershed event as far as the level of dedication that sailors were putting in on the water. [For these athletes,] sailing was their occupation and the primary driving force in their life. That’s just what was required.

“When [Jonathan and I] started sailing 49ers in 1996, we got a container full of boats and we learned to sail them with a group of people in the Northwest. We started out meeting after work at Shilshole and then we eventually went down to the Gorge and then to the first 49er Worlds. We weren’t doing a full-time campaign, but we were doing highlevel weekend-warrior stuff. The key was that we had a group of good sailors who were sharing information.

“We got second at the first 49er Worlds, then a fourth and then an eleventh as the Europeans caught up. Our goal wasn’t just to win the U.S. Olympic Trials, so we quit our jobs and really dedicated ourselves. We barely hung on, but we sailed a great regatta [in Sydney], got a little lucky and won Bronze.

“Now, everyone sails full-time.”

Complete interview in 48 Degrees North:

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