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At the Helm - Dean Brenner, March 2011

Looking Ahead to 2011… Where are We?

Here we are in March of 2011, and as of this writing, there are 515 days to go until the Olympic Games, and 548 days to go until the Paralympic Games. The clock is ticking. So, with the 2011 Rolex Miami OCR in the immediate rear view mirror, let’s pause for a moment and look at where things are.

There are some events where the track record is clear, and we are where we need to be in comparison to the rest of the world. Sailing is unlike other Olympic sports such as track and field or swimming. In those sports you can get a very good feeling about medal competitiveness by comparing times, distances, and quantifiable results. There are no guarantees in any sport, but in some sports, you can tell a lot based on the historical track record.

In sailing, you can do this to a certain degree, but with much less reliability. We can look at historical track records, and know if an athlete or a team is “competitive” but there remains a significant unknown in sailing based on all the variables that sailors deal with every day on the water. So we try to look at our program, class by class, and determine if we are close to entering the Games with a certifiable track record for success. As I do that today, my confidence level right now is mixed.

In some events, like Women’s Match Racing and Laser Radial, we are clearly on a great path. The results are undeniable. And I have a high level of confidence in Finn as well, but the recent track record has been slightly behind the other two… still strong, but a little more inconsistent.

After those three events, we have several places where we are close to being where we want to be, on a good path, but with some ground still to gain. We are doing some good things in the 470 Men and Star, clearly on a good path. 470 Women has also been a positive, but the results have been a little more inconsistent. I also love the path we are on in the 49er and Laser, with some good results starting to pop up more regularly. In the Boards, we are still a few steps off the pace, but there are some positive signs popping up with some reasonable performances in Miami in January. Overall, on the Olympic side of our Program, we have work to do in most events, but we are on a good path in most classes.

On the Paralympic side of our Program, there have been some consistently good results in the SKUD-18, and then some flashes of strength mixed with inconsistencies in Sonar and 2.4mR. We think we can compete for medals in all three Paralympic classes at the Games, but we are not where we need to be yet.

The important point today is that the Olympic quadrennium is about a four-year path rather than one immediate data point. We focus on the progression rather than any single moment in time. We are working with our sailors to accumulate track records of success, and the more positive results we have over time, the more likely we will have successful outcomes at the Games. We take the long-view because you have to in Olympic and Paralympic sailing.

Overall, I like what I see. But we have plenty of work left to do.