Noise needed for US Olympic Program

Published on March 6th, 2023

In four year cycles, the FIFA World Cup offers the reminder that casual sports fans can get excited about anything, even soccer, when the players wear their national colors. Nationalism drives interest, which was the mission of US Sailing for the Paris 2024 Olympics and beyond.

If the US Olympic Sailing Team was successful, the sport in that nation would gain interest. It was worthy plan, until US Sailing decided to make changes which prompted the resignation of Executive Director Paul Cayard and the team’s high performance leadership group. It is hard to see any benefit now.

Coinciding with US Sailing’s membership dues increase, among the discontent is Nick Bailey (St. Thomas, USVI/Newport, RI) who offers his view:

I am a proud American sailor who has been dismayed by the lack of medals by US Olympic sailors for many Olympic cycles. I am in awe of their personal efforts, however, which have been herculean and laudable, under their circumstances.

Former Team Leader Dean Brenner (and perhaps Paul Cayard) has clearly seen the problem. Simply put, Olympic Sailing needs to be completely separated from US Sailing. His concise explanation of the problem is a lucid picture of organizational dysfunction.

Concerned outsiders have been guessing this was the problem for some time, but Dean’s essay is unvarnished confirmation. Specifically, one sentence in Dean’s essay absolutely rocked me:

“It is time to come back to a conversation that has started and stopped many times in recent years, often quietly and in the shadows.”

It’s incomprehensible that this problem has been known for DECADES, and people (our dedicated “volunteers”) are whispering in the shadows, while US Olympic Sailing, more specifically, the unsupported, but dedicated American sailors, have been swirling down the drain!

The “volunteers” have been telling the Pros for decades how it should be done! No wonder there is a carousel of extremely qualified personnel, as well as a departure of qualified American sailors after one or two exhausting Olympic cycles.

It has been clear for some time that the Olympics, Sailing included, is now a profession and not a sport. The governments of other successful Sailing countries recognize this and support their sailors. Before we have any other conversation, we need to understand that our Olympic sailors need to be accorded that respect and treated as professionals.

They cannot ever be concerned with the funding side if they are to succeed. Has this important truth been so anathema to an antiquated concept, still quietly held in the “shadows”, that sailing should always be a Corinthian sport? Bravo to Dean for shining a light into the “shadows”.

The adjustment seems simple, but I’m sure there will be a chorus proclaiming it is not that easy. Good things usually aren’t.

Humor me an analogy. In World War II, the Allied air campaign was suffering decimation, and the war effort was compromised. Need for a long-range, high-performance escort was essential. US designers went to work and in less than 60 days designed and produced the P-51, determined in hindsight to be the greatest technological contribution to winning the war.

We need a dose of this can-do spirit, free of ego, and free of antiquated thinking. Get to work on creating a separate, professionally run US Olympic Sailing Program, with an organizational wing focused on the athletes and training and a financial wing to assure the level of funding needed by the professionals.

Old Zen proverb, “Sometimes one must leap and build wings on the way down.” Time to take that leap, build a set of butt-kicking wings and get professional US sailors back on the Olympic podium.

US sailors, make your voices heard to those currently making decisions, to promote this much needed change to the top of the US Sailing Agenda. Who do I call to offer my assistance for this effort?

Paris 2024 Olympic Sailing Program:
Men’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 7
Women’s One Person Dinghy – ILCA 6
Mixed Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Women’s Kiteboard – Formula Kite Class
Men’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Women’s Windsurfing – iQFoil
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Venue: Marseille, France
Dates: July 26-August 11


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