Cayard’s bold plan for US Olympic Sailing

Published on February 9th, 2022

Sailing World’s Kimball Livingston takes a look at the US Olympic Sailing Team with Paul Cayard now in charge, and the bold plan Cayard has to get the US team back on top for 2028.

When Team USA left Tokyo empty-handed, we were reminded that Olympic sailing is one corner of our sport that can generate as much controversy, OK, almost as much, as America’s Cup. But Team USA is changing.

Oh, you’ve heard that one before?

Let’s give it a think. Paul Cayard is the latest hopeful to step up as executive director of US Olympic Sailing and talk transformation. He’s taking on a firing-line job with guaranteed slings and arrows, and few guaranteed rewards, and it’s a job that won’t pay what he could be pulling in elsewhere.

But once upon a time, Cayard was the kid who took a business degree to prepare himself as a professional sailor. And he studied languages because the work is international. And when he became a top dog on America’s Cup teams, he hauled sails with the boys because that says team. Cayard is Mr. Credibility.

Cayard’s assessment, “When the Olympic game was bring-your-own, the US kicked butt. Then ISAF changed the rules to allow corporate sponsors, and other countries embraced the change. That was 1989, and it was a quantum shift. Before, the only full professionals were the Eastern Bloc sailors who were ‘in the military.’ The US didn’t match that shift.

“Until recently, we still played bring-your-own. To go to the ’04 Games in Athens, I spent $250,000, and I could afford that because I had a career under my belt. Our young people today don’t have that luxury as they try to compete against someone like Iain Percy who, as a gold medalist, gets paid that much every year to sail for the UK, with funding through their national lottery.”

More money. More coaching. Yadda, yadda and, of course, that’s all on the agenda. But ask Cayard about practical steps and you get answers. They’re about developing robust structures to support young sailors as they grow, promoting opportunities to sail in Olympic classes, partnering with the college sailing system, and building strong Olympic-classes ­competition inside the USA.

Let’s take them one at a time.

The AmericaOne Foundation backed Cayard’s America’s Cup bid in New Zealand in 2000, then pivoted to other goals that are paying off now. Cayard says, “We were blessed to have the vision of Larry Finch, Doug Smith and ‘Buddha’ Bob Billingham to pick one piece of the puzzle and tackle it. You need a pipeline of talent, and there’s no switch you can throw to open that spigot. It takes time. We had seen the way other countries were developing youth sailors. That was not happening here, so AmericaOne partnered with US Sailing in 2014 to create Project Pipeline. – Full story

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