Olympic Sailing: Comparing USA and Australia

Published on January 12th, 2014

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I recently found myself in a debate regarding the USA Olympic Sailing Program. It was not a new topic: Why can’t big and mighty USA win any sailing medals. My point was the USA program can only work with the sailors they are given.

A culture of emphasizing institutional-style boats in youth-only events has hampered the development of US youth sailors. If the best sailors advancing from the youth ranks are not ready to proceed to the elite level, even the best Olympic program will be hamstrung.

I was reminded of this debate when reviewing the report from the 2014 Australian Youth Championship held January 6-10. The Australians, if you recall, dominated the 2012 Games, winning three Golds and one Silver in the nine events

The 2014 Australian Youths had more participants overall, and more in the core classes, than the 2013 US Youth Championship. In the International 420 (trainer for Olympic 470), the US had 11 teams to the Australian 37 teams. In the 29er (trainer for Olympic 49er), the US had 9 teams whereas the Aussies had 40 teams. The US Youths did have 32 teams competing in the Club 420, a simpler version of the I-420.

Here are the total entrants in each class at the 2014 Australian Youth Championship:
Laser Radial -43
Laser 4.7 – 65
I-420 – 37
29er – 40
Hobie 16 – 5
Techno 293 – 5

But looking at two regattas in Miami on Dec. 27-30, perhaps there is hope. While the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta attracted 102 youth teams in the Club 420, there were still 21 29er teams and 20 I-420 teams competing in the Open Orange Bowl Regatta. Better yet, the Open regatta was not age restricted. Imagine that…

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