Developing Olympic Sailors
To admit defeat is not an easy task, not for an individual, a team, and certainly not for the US Olympic Sailing Program. Yet, according to Craig Lewneck, that is exactly what the program did. After years of dominating the Olympic Podium, the 2012 Olympic Team did not medal. To the organization, 2012 was not simply an off year, but a wake up call that the US was not doing an effective job of driving youth sailors towards the Olympics.
Junior programs are limited in the boats that they can provide to sailors and many of these boats are not high performance development boats, which properly prepare sailors for Olympic class boats. These boats and the regattas make for high expenses, which has been a priority for the US Youth Olympic Development Program. Lewneck says, “it just wasn’t spent very well to prepare them for their campaigns. And once young sailors did commit to an Olympic campaign, most parents had closed the checkbook. They had already paid plenty for coaches, clinics and competitions. Without start-up support, talented kids either turned to pro sailing or tapped out altogether.”
Oakcliff Sailing Center on Long Island has recently become an official US training center of the US Sailing Team Sperry. High performance boats are available for local youth sailors to come and train without the financial burden of having to buy them. “The development of future Olympians currently lies in the hands of Leandro Spina, US Sailing’s youth development director. ‘We are really excited now about our ability to reach out to the young talent and support them,’ he says. ‘We are working together with the talent, with the coaches, with the programs, with the yacht clubs.” Long Island youth sailors are now dominating in the US i420 (development boat for 470 class) circuit which not only shows promise, but, that local sailors are paving the way.