Improving the future for US Olympians

Published on September 30th, 2019

The organization of youth sailing in the USA toward club-style, age-based boats has increased participation but it has distanced the learnings of young people from the variety and technical areas in the sport. To reverse this trend, change was needed. In this report from US Sailing, they share a step in the right direction:

Formalized in 2015 with support from the America One Foundation, US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) was created to define a pathway for young athletes looking to pursue the most elite levels of the sport.

The program primarily supports sailors by providing them with training resources and opportunities, including coaching from some of the best in the industry. The ODP’s three annual fall clinics offer such opportunities for sailors to receive coaching in Youth World Championship classes.

Thanks to support from the Belvedere Cove Foundation and the St. Francis Sailing Foundation, young sailors in the 29er, i420, Nacra 15 classes recently gathered at St. Francis Yacht Club for the ODP West Clinic. The athletes worked with some of these top-tier coaches to improve everything from boat set-up and technique, to race tactics and physical fitness.

Several of the coaches at the clinic have been supporting up-and-coming athletes for many years. Quantum Racing expert, Charlie McKee (Bend, Ore.), is a two-time Olympic Medalist (1988 Bronze, Men’s 470; 2000 Silver, Men’s 49er), and has spent recent years supporting the U.S. Olympic Sailing effort by coaching young athletes.

Nacra 15 athlete and 2019 Youth World Team member, Charlotte Versavel (Palo Alto, Calif.), has worked with McKee on multiple occasions now. “The first time Charlie ever coached me was at the California International Sailing Association (CISA) Advanced Racing Clinic, two years ago, and I was absolutely mind blown by what he said,” recalled Versavel.

“He did a presentation all about why being a crew is better than being a skipper. I’m a crew, so I could obviously relate to that sentiment, but I had just started crewing at the time. When he said that, I was like, ‘Man, he’s so right. This is the only way to go’.”

Fellow Nacra 15 crew, Marianna Shand (Chula Vista, Calif.) added, “Everything he says is really down to earth. Nothing is confusing. It’s all really well laid out. He’s really good at simplifying the complex concepts for us to absorb and continue to work on when training at home.”

Other sailors agreed that the impact of the coaches’ advice persists beyond their time at ODP camps.

“One thing that really stuck with us was, you’re going to get out of today what you put in. It’s still really motivating,” said, Timmy Gee (Burlingame, Calif.), an i420 sailor who trains regularly with the Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation, after being coached by ODP Fleet Coach, Elizabeth Kratzig (Miami, Fla.), and Quantum Racing expert, Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake (Annapolis, Md.).

Athletes currently pursuing Olympic campaigns also frequently pass on their wisdom to the next generation of Olympic hopefuls at these events. Among the ODP fleet coaches at this clinic were 49er athlete and US Sailing Team Squad member, Dane Wilson (Ojai, Calif.) and former 49er Olympic campaigner and Sailing Performance Training Co-Founder, Fred Strammer (Miami, Fla.).

Sailors finishing in top positions in the Youth Worlds Qualification Series or at the US Youth Championship are invited to train directly under the ODP fleet coaches. Other interested young athletes can apply to attend with their regional program and coach.

By opening up the clinic to regional programs, the clinics serve as a chance for large group of sailors to learn from different coaches and fellow competitors. They also serve as an opportunity for attending regional program coaches to learn new techniques from some of the best sources in the industry.

Two of the three ODP Fall clinics remain. Sailors in high-performance youth classes will head to Miami next for the final two camps of 2018. The ODP East Camp will take place at Miami Yacht Club (MYC), on October 12-14. The ODP Racing Clinic is also hosted by MYC and will run from November 29-December 1.

Applications for regional programs to attend the ODP Racing clinic will be accepted and reviewed through October 29. If you are a coach interested in attending with your sailors, click here.

For questions about the Olympic Development Program, contact Meredith Carroll:

Additional informationFrequently Asked Questions

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