Talent Converges in Miami – US Sailing Hosts “Best Olympic Development Program Camp Yet”

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Miami became a mecca for talented American sailors, as US Sailing’s Olympic Development Program (ODP) hosted its annual Racing Clinic at Miami Yacht Club. There, over 130 athletes spanning six classes were supported by 40 coaches, including ODP fleet coaches, Quantum Racing experts, and regional program coaches.

The ODP has come a long way since its inception. In 2015, it was founded thanks to the support of the AmericaOne Foundation as Project Pipeline—the nation’s first formalized effort to create a constant flow of talent to Olympic sailing. Since then, organizations like Quantum Racing and Oakcliff Sailing have joined AmericaOne in providing support for U.S. developing athletes with tangible resources like top-level coaching and easy access to boats and equipment.

Now, athletes spanning multiple classes and age ranges flock to Miami every winter to hone their skills in the Youth World and Olympic classes. This particular camp featured athletes in 29er, 49er, 49erFX, i420, 470, Laser Radial, and foiling windsurf fleets.* While the ODP has always been an inspiring endeavor, it’s an especially exciting time for the program. The athletes who were first involved in the early days of Project Pipeline are aging out of the Youth World classes and transitioning into Olympic classes.

Athletes racing on foiling windsurf boards at the 2019 ODP Racing Camp

Leandro Spina (Miami, Fla.) is US Sailing’s Olympic Development Director and has been guiding the program since the beginning. “It’s really exciting to see how the athletes have grown over the last five years. This year, we had ODP athletes go on to win Pan American Games Medals, begin campaigns for the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympics, and finish in the top ten at an Olympic class World Championship. Watching them transition into these classes has been so rewarding already. While we’re glad to see some proof that the program is working, we’re really looking forward to the future.”

With a racing focus, the camp also provided the perfect opportunity for athletes and coaches alike. Athletes were encouraged to think about the entire process of going through a race, rather than focusing on the results. This format provided the perfect opportunity to use cutting edge technology to improve the athletes’ skills on the water. Throughout the clinic, coaches used onboard communications, video taken onboard and by drone, and tracker analysis to support daily debriefs and on the water feedback.

Over 130 ODP athletes gathered at Miami Yacht Club for a morning briefing

For the first time in the organization’s history, US Sailing also simultaneously hosted a Women’s Coaching Clinic at the training camp. In the first clinic of its kind, fifteen female coaches spent two days at the ODP camp. Through this unique opportunity, the participants were able to get an up-close look at the operations of ODP clinics and the technology the ODP is integrating into athlete training.

“We decided to integrate the Women’s Coaching Clinic with the ODP to give these coaches opportunities to network with the ODP coaches and make connections,” said Olympic sailing veteran, Elizabeth Kratzig (Miami, Fla.), who led the Women’s Coaching Clinic. “I think the camp introduced them to some really interesting technology they can take back to their programs. It also helped them understand that boats like the 29er and the i420 are just another class, and the principles they’re already comfortable with still apply. Hopefully, this experience gave them confidence and inspiration to work with more high-performance classes and introduce cutting edge coaching techniques across the country.”

On the whole, the weekend was a great success for progressing the level of talent within the sport. Spina even said, “I think this camp was the best one we’ve hosted yet.”

His lofty review is in part thanks to the talented coaches and volunteers that supported the clinic. ODP and regional program coaches were joined by Quantum Racing experts, Ed Baird (St. Petersburg, Fla.), Morgan Reeser (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Grant “Fuzz” Spanhake (Annapolis, Md.), and Dave Perry (Southport, Conn.), in coaching the athletes on the water and providing expert advice during debrief sessions. Meteorologist, Chelsea Carlson (Nashua, N.H.) also provided sailing-specific weather briefing sessions and Miami Local, Carol Ewing (Coconut Grove, Fla.), led the Race Committee.

According to Spina, “It was great to see the level of talent in the whole group. Watching a new wave of young athletes mix up with these Youth World Champions, World Champions, Pan-American Games Medalists, Olympic Medalists, Volvo Ocean Race veterans, and America’s Cup winners was awesome.”

Spina and the rest of the ODP are looking forward to the next training camp in Miami. This coming January, US Sailing will host another high-performance clinic, this time featuring just the Olympic classes. There, the developing sailors will also be joined by some of the US Sailing Team athletes. That event will take place on January 5-9, followed by a regatta run by the coaches on January 10-12. For more information on that event, contact ODP@ussailing.org

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*Note: Nacra 15s were not included in this clinic due to timing. The class recently hosted the North American Championship in early November in Sarasota, Florida. As the event took place just weeks before, ODP staff felt that a clinic right on the heels of this event would have been overwhelming for a new class. The regatta featured a record number of Nacra 15 athletes that the ODP supported with coaching resources. US Sailing is excited about the progress that was exhibited at the event and is excited to continue working with the class.