Sail Canada’s Winning Philosophy

Published on March 29th, 2017

At the 2016 Rio Games, more Olympic sailing medals went to Europe than all the other continents combined. At the other end of the scale was North America, but as Sail Canada CEO Don Adams reports, he is eager to see his country contribute to a change.

As Sail Canada and its national team moves toward the next Olympics and beyond, I thought it would be helpful to give our members an overview of the Canadian Sport System philosophy toward excellence and what Sail Canada is doing to be amongst the best Sailing nations in the world.

Prior to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, the Canadian Government and the Canadian Olympic Committee created a not for profit organization called Own the Podium (OTP), to provide targeted funding for our winter athletes in order to win medals when the games were being hosted in Canada.

Because of its success for Vancouver Olympic Games, the program was implemented across all winter and summer sports. It has been a game changer for Canadian Sport.

The OTP Vision is: For Canada to be a world leader in high performance sport at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

The OTP Mission is: To lead the development of Canadian sports to achieve sustainable and improved podium performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games

As many of you might recall (if you are old enough like me), participating at the Olympics was the end goal and unless you were Hockey Canada; we were satisfied with that. But not anymore!

Own the Podium and Canadian Sport is about winning and that has changed the mindset of Canadians. A new culture for winning was instilled in Canada thanks to the Vancouver 2010. Now more than ever, we believe it is okay to win – we can win – and Canadians want to win!

What we witnessed in Vancouver is that medals change a nation. They give Canada a swagger, built national pride, strengthened communities and instilled confidence. Even more recently, the Olympics show us that medals matter and Canadians care.

Never underestimate the power of an Olympic medal to draw attention to the sport. Podium performances pull Canadians off their couches and encourage them to live a healthier and more active life – the examples of increased participation are endless. Winning helps to create heroes for Canada.

Sail Canada’s philosophy

Along with developing and promoting the sport of sailing, a major segment of Sail Canada’s business is to help our athletes win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Gone are the days when we will just show up to fill a spot. We want to be amongst the best in the world and we need to create a system that will do that. Our athletes deserve it.

But we need your help to get there. Our recipe for successes is not complicated but it does require commitment, dedication, hard work, and meticulous attention to detail, along with sufficient funding. Over the next year we will be implementing a new High Performance Plan, which will have the ingredients for long-term podium success.

In order to be successful there are ten key elements Sail Canada will need to have in place. This cannot be done alone but needs the help and alignment of all stakeholders; including members, clubs, provinces, and our funding partners.

1. The first thing we require is an organizational wide commitment to high performance excellence;

2. Secondly we need High Performance leadership. Recruitment is ongoing for a World Class High Performance Director who has proven international success and credibility. This person will have a clear delegation of authority for the HP Program and be held accountable for domestic and international results. This person will be a technical expert and also possess the leadership skills to pull the coaching community together and inspire the athletes to personal excellence;

3. Thirdly, we need to provide the High Performance Director with the resources to develop and implement a HP System from the club to the Olympic and Paralympic teams;

4. To implement this HP Plan we will need a team of national coaches and technical experts working together providing the athletes with the coaching they need to perform at the highest levels;

5. To build the High Performance system we will need to effectively create and align the system from national to provincial to clubs programs throughout Canada. Every provincial and club coach should feel part of the system and be able to be proud of the success of our athletes;

6. To feed the high performance pyramid we need a constant influx of new sailors at the grass-roots level and a Talent ID system that clearly identifies promising athletes and provides them with appropriate coaching support and an athlete pathway with clearly defined milestones so they know where they stand and what they need to improve to reach their potential;

7. Along with an aligned HP system and talent ID, we will need world class Integrated Sport Science and Sport Medicine services to maximize the potential our athletes;

8. A high performance system will not survive without a professional coach education program that develops and trains Canadian coaches to be the best in the world at what they do;

9. Most of all we need to provide support to our elite athletes so they can focus on training and competition and not how to pay the bills – this would include professional coaching, travel and living expenses at competitions, and integrated sport science support;

10. Lastly we need to celebrate our successes along the way!

I know if we put these ingredients together we will create a world class, made in Canada system, which will lead to international sailing success. No one can do this alone, we are stronger together and together we can make it happen.

I invite your comments and feedback at

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