When gathered with fellow sailors for a few beers I sometimes try and stimulate the discussion by throwing out the question, "Why aren't US sailors doing better in the Olympics (and other major international regattas in the Olympic classes) lately?" If anyone should challenge the premise of my question I will point to a recent example, such as the fact that at the Pre-Olympic Regatta last month in Weymouth (the site of the actual Olympics next year) the US team only scored one medal in the fleet racing - and that a bronze. What is going on? The USA has a team of sailors who are campaigning full-time for the Olympics, they travel to all the major international regattas, they train hard, they are supported by a team of elite coaches etc. etc. And they can only achieve one bronze?
My friends typically have all sorts of theories. My contribution to the discussion is usually to blame college sailing. Most young US sailors go to college and I have a strong suspicion that the kind of sailing in which they participate in college is poor preparation for Olympic competition. My theory is that if a sailor really wants to win a gold medal at sailing they should skip (or defer) college and start training full time for the Olympics as soon as they leave high school. Of course no coach would dare to tell a kid not to go to college, would they? So the mediocre US Olympic sailing performance continues.
I was surprised to read some validation for my theory from Gary Bodie today. Bodie knows a thing or two about Olympic sailing having coached the US team to winning eight Olympics medals in his time. In an interview on CleverPig.org he encourages young sailors to consider different styles of boats such as the multihull or the skiff and is quoted as saying...
If you are truly one of the elite youth sailors in the USA, then you don't need to spend eight years roll tacking an FJ in High School and College. Move on already. And finally, don't expect to win the US Trials or an Olympic Medal in a two year campaign after college, no matter how good you think you are.