by Leandro Spina, Youth Development Director, US Sailing
US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) is not just a new youth program, but a fundamental shift in how we develop high-performance sailing talent in the United States. With that in mind, we are very pleased with how the first year of such a large new project has unfolded.
Our main objective was a simple one; we needed to get the ODP in motion. This meant organizing and running over 30 events across the country, and coordinating with the diverse and dedicated network of youth sailing programs, supporters and stakeholders that have been our country’s backbone for decades. To connect with our most motivated prospects, the ODP staff was physically present at many of the top youth regattas and clinics. This presence will continue going forward, as we work to build strong relationships with sailors and their families.
The ODP camps that were run by US Sailing and various partners were well-organized and successful operations from the start. Our first major event, a high-performance clinic in San Francisco co-organized by the St. Francis Sailing Foundation, set the tone for all camps to follow. At all of our events, we have focused on pairing talented and motivated sailors with the best coaches in the world. Top coaches involved in the first year of the ODP have included Ed Baird, Anna Tunnicliffe, Willie McBride, Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake, Molly Vandemoer, Zach Railey, Dee Smith, Mark Littlejohn, Chris Rast, Tom Burnham, Rulo Borojovich, Stu Mcnay, Brendan Casey, Mike Kalin, Dane Wilson, and Steve Keen. While the primary focus was on sailing, youth athletes also received valuable training in fitness, nutrition, campaign logistics, and technical topics. We also focused hard on developing world-class crews who are learning to trim, trapeze, and call tactics at a high level. ODP training camps were held in California, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, and New York. With such diverse venues, sailors were treated to the entire range of wind and sea conditions.
ODP Events By the Numbers:
ODP Camps: 19, run by ODP and including 4 all-girls skiff camps National clinics: 4, supported by the ODP
Regattas: 22, with range of support—some pre-regatta training, some coaching on the water and other just ODP coach appearance
Creating a more unified culture of excellence around American youth sailing will not happen overnight. But the speed at which we started to get improved results was encouraging. US Sailing Youth Travel Teams were created to support top sailors competing at the 29er World Championships and Laser Radial Youth World Championships, and both groups saw success. Bronze medals were taken home by Americans at each of these events, with multiple other US boats in top-10 positions.
About US Sailing Youth Travel Teams:
Radial Travel Team (Laser Radial Youth Worlds)
- 4 girls (Anna Weiss, Sophia Reineke, Charlotte Rose and Chrisitna Sakellaris)
- 5 boys (Scott Rasmussen, Nic Baird, William Marshall, Henry Marshall, Pat Shanahan)
29er Travel Team (29er Worlds)
- 6 teams/12 athletes (Chris Williford, Wade Wadell, Nic Muller, Ian McDiarmid, Max Brill, Andrew Person, Jacob Rosenberg, Rhodes Garner, Pere Puig, Shane Riera)
USA sailors earned successful results in other youth classes. RSOne (youth sailboard) Europeans was won by Pedro Pascual (USA), while Marion Lepert (USA) took silver at the RS:X Europeans in the U21 division. i420 sailors also shined, with Americans winning silver at Worlds, gold and silver at i420 Junior Europeans. The ODP was also to help some of these sailors before their major events in 2015, and we look forward to getting more involved as time goes on.
The US Sailing ISAF Youth Worlds Team is also a main ODP focus this year. For the first time, Youth Worlds Team athletes are receiving pre-event training from US Sailing, in addition to high-level coaching at the event itself. These camps featured the team which earned selection at the US Sailing Youth Championships, plus several other athletes/teams helping to raise the performance bar. We have had notably strong participation in the I420, 29er, Laser Radial, and RS:X classes.The ISAF Youth Worlds represents the pinnacle of youth sailing, and we continue to encourage sailors to reach for the podium at this event. There is a clear correlation between success on that stage and success at higher levels, including at the Olympics.
Our pre-launch goals of getting the program in motion, connecting with sailors, building support within the existing youth sailing framework, and providing world-class coaching have all yielded promising results. At US Sailing, we feel that once the American sailing community unites behind a common strategy for youth development, we can build a sustainable and accessible pipeline for sailors who dream of competing and winning at the highest levels of the sport. None of this would be possible without the support of the AmericaOne Foundation and other generous donors, and we will continue to work to implement our shared vision.
The first year of the ODP was tremendously exciting, and I anticipate the next few years to yield continued and tangible progress.
About US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program:
US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) was launched in January 2015 to lead the progression of the most promising youth sailing talent in the US. Guided by the US Olympic Sailing Committee’s Project Pipeline strategic initiative, the ODP fosters an integrated approach to training in the core development and Olympic classes, and is part of a system to provide the United States with a steady stream of well-prepared sailors. Some of these athletes will go on to represent Team USA at The Olympic Games, and provide the national team with consistent success. The fundamental premise of the ODP is to focus on the critical transition from youth sailing to high performance racing in Olympic classes. The ODP is funded through generous donations by individuals and organizations. The lead gift as well as a matching grant has been provided by the AmericaOne Foundation, and the US Olympic Sailing Program is actively seeking supporters to meet this generous match. For more information on the ODP and the America One Match campaign, please visit www.ussailing.org/olympics