At the helm: the state of the US team

Published on January 20th, 2016

by Josh Adams, Managing Director of US Olympic Sailing
The US Sailing Team Sperry is riding momentum toward Rio de Janeiro as we enter the 2016 Games year. A review of the team’s highlight performances in 2015 reveals a group of Olympic and Paralympic athletes with improved prospects on the Games stage.

US 470 teams led the way last year: Stu McNay and Dave Hughes won gold medals at the 470 European Championships and Sailing World Cup Weymouth, followed by Annie Haeger and Briana Provancha sailing to gold at the Olympic Test Event in Rio.

Paige Railey added a Pan American Games gold medal to her decorated Laser Radial resume. And Dee Smith, a newcomer in the 2.4 Metre class, demonstrated his rapid ascent in Paralympic sailing with top-six results at both the 2.4 Meter Open and Para Sailing World Championships.

These athletes deserve mention for their performances on the water in 2015, and the team as a whole gets credit for its commitment to a unified goal: Focus on Rio. Since the start of the Rio 2016 quadrennium, athletes, coaches, staff, and team supporters have been dedicated to learning about the Rio sailing venue.

The sailors have logged hundreds of days training and racing on Rio race courses. For several years now we’ve been gaining experience in the unique currents and local wind conditions. Our team’s Rio weather strategy is now in its third phase, and it has truly been a team effort to get the data right.

Our team is comfortable in Rio, and we view this kind of familiarity with the venue as an important factor in our preparation for the Games. Acclimatization in Rio has also included learning new precautions, which protect sailors from unclean sailing waters.

We continuously monitor the status of Guanabara Bay and update the team’s health protocols based on the guidance we receive from the team’s medical experts and firsthand feedback from the athletes and coaches. We’ve taken concrete steps to prepare American sailors and will continue to use all relevant data to ensure their safety.

This is an exciting time for USA’s Olympic and Paralympic sailors. Selection for Team USA started last month at the Para World Sailing Championships and continues later this month at Sailing World Cup Miami, Presented by Sunbrella. This year’s Miami is shaping up to be a world-class event, with one of the largest international fleets ever.

For the first time in the event’s 27-year history, Miami will serve as a USA selection event, the first in a series of two trials events in eight Olympic classes and one Paralympic class. Athletes will be named to the Olympic and Paralympic Sailing Teams following the final selection events (which vary by class) later this winter/spring.

While the team takes aim at Rio, the next generation is coming along well. This will be the second year of US Sailing’s all-new Olympic Development Program (ODP), launched to raise standards and better prepare our young high-performance sailors for world-class competition. The ODP is creating a culture of excellence in youth sailing, and we know that will take time.

Nevertheless, the program’s quick start included 30 camps nationwide that ODP coaches and staff organized, ran or assisted with; a youth travel team at the 29er Worlds; a youth travel team at the Laser Radial Youth Worlds; and an impressive US Sailing Youth Worlds Team performance at the recent Youth Worlds in Langkawi, Malaysia.

More than 250 sailors in the US received high-level coaching from the ODP, and the efforts by everyone involved helped put Americans on the podium. Bronze medals were taken home at 29er Worlds (Chris Williford & Wade Waddel), and at Laser Radial Youth Worlds (Nic Baird), with gold coming in the Boy’s 420 (I420) at Youth Worlds (Will Logue & Bram Brakman).

A lot of amazing people sail, coach, fund, and participate in different ways—and we are grateful for the community that has already made US Sailing’s ODP a world-class youth development effort.

The Games year is here, and your US Olympic Sailing Program is ready for the challenge.

Read the latest issue of The Medalist…click here.

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