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why they won

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why they won

We had a thread asking for a story about why US sailors did so well at the OCR. After we told the poster to fuck off, we decided it actually might make for an interesting story, so we went straight to Dean Brenner from US Sailing for the inside dope..

Team USA at the Rolex Miami OCR

I got a nice note from Scot the Editor asking me to share some thoughts on the performance of the US Sailing Team AlphaGraphics at the Rolex Miami OCR. I’m happy to share some thoughts here and then answer questions in a follow-up thread.

Our team did indeed perform well at the RMOCR. We won 10 medals in 8 events, and four golds (in women’s 470, women’s match racing, Laser Radial and Skud 18). The event was well attended, with about 640 sailors from 45 countries. And in fact, we had a chance at medals in two more events. We finished 4th and 5th in Finn and 5th in men’s 470, with clear chances at a medal in both of those events. It was a strong performance all around. But how should we interpret this performance? What does it really mean? Here are some thoughts for you to consider and then we can debate it all in the thread:

  1. This is far from the first time our team has done well at RMOCR. In fact last year we won 12 medals in 8 events, and we’ve medaled in many events several other times in the past. But I’ll argue that this is the best performance we have ever had at such a well-attended RMOCR. This was the fourth largest RMOCR ever, and most of the world’s best were in Miami. So in my mind our 10 medals this year is more impressive than our 12 medals last year.
  2. Part of the reason we performed well is that we have a large number of very talented (and now petty experienced) sailors putting in the time to compete and perform. Olympic and Paralympic sailing requires strong dedication and we have more sailors than ever before willing and able to make the necessary commitment. If you look around our team, we have 2008 Olympic medalists making the commitment in the Finn (Zach Railey), women’s match racing (Anna Tunnicliffe with crew Molly Vandemoer and Debbi Capozzi), and Olympians McNay and Biehl in the 470, and Barger in men’s RS:X. We also have highly decorated world-class talents like Paige Railey doing the hard work in the Radial. We have current Star World champions Szabo and Peters training hard in the Star. We have 2008 Olympian Andrew Campbell doing great work in a new class (Star, with Brad Nichol). We have 2008 World Champs Maxwell and Kinsolving-Farrar training in the women’s 470. And 2008 Olympians Clark and Mergenthaler-Chin are back, and just won gold at the RMOCR. In the 2.4mR we have reigning world champ and 2008 bronze medalist John Ruf still committed and training. In the Skud-18, Scott Whitman and Julia Dorsett won RMOCR for the second consecutive year and they won a medal at the 2009 IFDS worlds. And there is a long list of great sailors who are training and can do great things like Horton and Lyne in the Star, Storck and Moore in the 49er, Clay Johnson in the Laser, Olympian Sally Barkow, and Genny Tulloch both in the women’s match racing. The bottom line is that we have a lot of talent right now, and regardless of how strong your program is, you can’t replace great talent. And we have great talent. If you want to point to the primary reason why we are performing well, you have to point to the talent of our athletes.
  3. But another part of the reason we are performing so well is that we are surrounding and supporting this talent with a better program than we have ever had before. I’ll save you the gory details here, but we are giving out more funding, providing more coaching, and giving more physical training, rules training and weather knowledge than ever before. The resources we are bringing to our athletes is unsurpassed in the history of US Olympic and Paralympic sailing. High, high kudos goes to our staff (led by Olympic Director Katie Kelly and Head Coach Kenneth Andreasen) for the work they are doing. They get little fanfare, but it’s pretty remarkable.
  4. We also have a stronger commercial platform than ever before, which is not only helping us raise funds for the program, but it is also a platform that our individual sailors and teams can use to raise additional money for themselves. We are carrying branding on hulls, sails and clothing. We are and acting like a team more than ever. Our athletes are buying into it, our coaches are supporting it, and Commercial Director Dan Cooney is bringing it all to life.
  5. 5. We are quickly instituting a new team culture, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that we have paid attention to the success of Team GBR in this regard. We are training together, we are working together, we are living together on the road… we are sharing resources, making each other better and trying to lift our collective game.

I won’t bore you with too much more. But if you want to know why we did well at RMOCR, it’s two reasons. We have great talent, and we are helping our athletes unleash that talent by giving them more support than ever.

Now before anyone thinks I am getting ahead of myself, let me be the one to add a bit of realism. It was one great regatta. Let’s keep all of this in perspective. We did well and we all should be proud of that. But our goal is not to win medals in Miami in 2010. This event was a stepping stone. Our goal is to be at our best in 2012, and we have a lot of work to do to get there. We need more support for more athletes. We need to keep searching out world-class coaching that will fit into our system. We need more sponsors. And there are still a LOT of great sailors in this country who don’t make the commitment to Olympic sailing. We have room for more great sailors, and we have some clear ways we can continue to strengthen our program.

I’m proud of our athletes. I’m proud of our program. But I’m not at all satisfied with where we are. We can be better. And we will be. I’ll answer any questions you’ve got. Thanks for reading. (Jump in the thread – Ed.)

Dean Brenner
Chairman
US Olympic and Paralympic Sailing