Please US Sailing, stop the bleeding

Published on March 20th, 2024

Carol Cronin, member of the US Sailing team from 2001-2007 and member of the Olympic sailing committee from 2005-2016, offers up a plea to US Sailing.

In one all-too-memorable race at the 2004 Olympic Classes Regatta, I got a very bad start, and then compounded that mistake by sailing off to the unfavored side, blindly searching for a miracle comeback. On the next beat my teammates convinced me to instead dig into the favored left, and we indeed made some incremental gains. After the finish, our coach (desperately trying to stay positive) announced, “Great job, you finally stopped the bleeding.”

Now US Sailing needs to do the same: give up on this stupid lawsuit so the US Olympic Sailing Program can start moving forward once more. I’ve been biting my tongue, figuring that no one wants to hear from a sailor who went to the Olympics 20 years ago. But on the tiny chance that my plea might actually make some sort of difference, I’ve decided to speak up.

A month ago, Dean Brenner provided much-needed context about how we got here. I was hopeful that his words would help bring an end to this latest and grossest example of mis-governance, and I still share his optimism that this could be a turning point. I also agree with his suggestion to “get open-minded leaders from across our sport in a room, to have a serious conversation about how to fix the root cause structural problem of our US Olympic Sailing Program.”

But when Dawn Riley and several others put together just such a meeting last fall, US Sailing leadership didn’t even show. And they continue to ignore the advice of those with both the institutional and sailing knowledge to understand what it takes to build and maintain a successful Olympic program.

At this point I don’t even care who’s right, and, like most protests, there were probably things that could’ve been done differently by both sides. The current leadership did not create the program’s root problems, but a lawsuit will not solve them. It has already sucked way too much oxygen out of the Olympic program, distracting from what really matters: supporting our 2024 team, and building a talent pipeline to 2028 and beyond.

The road to success for one Olympics begins years before the previous one lights its opening flame, which means that the many governance errors of the past two quads have already damaged our 2028 team. That’s a big disappointment for a rare home Games that was supposed to highlight the many strengths of American sailing, but we can’t do anything about that now. We can stop looking for that miracle comeback and instead focus on making incremental gains toward a better Olympic program. Please US Sailing, stop the bleeding.

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