OSC Chairman Dean Brenner Explains Evolution of the 2012 Olympic Selection Procedures

Portsmouth, R.I. (July 7, 2010) — US SAILING’s Olympic Sailing Committee (OSC) has determined the selection procedures for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team – Sailing in the 10 events selected for the 2012 Olympic Regatta, set for July 27- August 12, 2012 in Weymouth/Portland, England. Athletes will have the opportunity to qualify at two international events: Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, in Weymouth/Portland, England, scheduled for June 5-11, 2011, and International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Sailing World Championship, in Perth, Australia, scheduled for December 3-18, 2011. The exception is the Women’s Match Racing event, which has two separate regattas: one in Miami, Florida in October, 2011, and another in Weymouth, England in spring 2012. In an interview with US SAILING, OSC Chairman Dean Brenner explains the evolution of the U.S. selection procedures.

Why is the OSC making this change now?Dean Brenner_Credit Walter Cooper The Olympic sailing program’s primary mission is to field a team of athletes most capable of achieving success at the Olympic Games, and we believe this new system gives us the greatest chance of achieving that mission in 2012.

The world of Olympic class competition has evolved dramatically in the last ten years, and our selection system needed to evolve as well.  Success at the Games requires year-round training and year-round competition against the best sailors in the world, and the Olympic sailing program needs to support the athletes who are committed to pursuing full-time campaigns.

If you look at all the things we’ve been doing over the past six years, including our national team selection and funding structure, the common denominator has been our focus on international competition. Our decision to change the selection trials to a system of international competition is the just latest example of this new focus of the OSC. And if you look back to our method of selection for 2008 Games, we were experimenting with international selection in the Yngling class, so this was clearly on our minds last quadrennium. We now feel this is the time to make this wholesale change.

What are the merits of this system versus the traditional U.S. trials system?
Most of the top countries use a combination of international events. We were one of the few countries not using some kind of international selection procedures. With the proper fleet quality AND quantity, we still believe a winner-takes-all event in the U.S. is the best method of selection. However, if you lack either quality or quantity, the value of that method drops dramatically.

The move away from the traditional domestic trials will disappoint some people who enjoy the opportunity to compete on U.S. soil. While we appreciate some of the other benefits of a domestic trials system, our primary mission is clear. If we can achieve these other benefits while also appropriately pursuing our primary mission, great. If we can’t, we have to focus on the primary mission.

Why is Women’s Match Racing still a domestic event?
The OSC chose the more traditional U.S.-only qualification series because it is nearly impossible to predict how many spots will be available to U.S. teams at any one international match racing event. Unlike in fleet racing events, it’s impossible to guarantee more than one spot per country.  We’re blessed with having multiple strong teams, and we want to make sure every competitive team, and every interested team, has sufficient opportunity to compete for selection.

This change will make it harder and more expensive for the rank-and-file sailor to try to qualify for the Team. Are you concerned about that?
Of course we are, but we default back to the primary mission of the OSC. The world of Olympic class competition is getting harder every day, and success at the Games requires year-round training and year-round competition against the best sailors in the world. It’s a simple fact that the athletes who will most likely achieve success at the Olympic Games are already planning to compete at these two events. We are not asking any serious U.S. competitor to do anything they would not already be doing.

The days of somebody training in a remote domestic location, winning the Trials and then medaling at the Olympic Games are long, long gone.  However, if any U.S. athlete wants to see where they stand against the best in the world, he or she can work to win a spot at these events and have a great experience. It’s just going take some more work.

Again, our primary mission is to field a team that gives the U.S. the best possible chances of success at the Games. If we can achieve that mission in a domestic trials system that makes it convenient for part-time sailors to compete then we’ll do that. But if not, we focus on the primary mission.

It will also make things harder for the developing sailor looking for his or her first-time Trials experience. Are you concerned about that?
Again, of course we are. But if we focus so much on the future and ignore the present, we’ll create a weaker future reality for those developing sailors. In other words, if we create a selection system that helps developing sailors but hurts our chances in 2012, then those developing sailors will one day inherit a program with less funding and less support. Success breeds success, and we need to be competitive in 2012 to increase our chances of being competitive in 2016 and 2020.

So we default to our primary mission: the 2012 Team. In addition, we now have several new and significant development initiatives under way, so our next generation of sailors is already getting more support and direction than ever before.

Is this change permanent or will the OSC consider some day going back to domestic trials?
Every quadrennium, the trials selection is determined by that current OSC, and each OSC will assess and determine the best possible selection procedure for the next Games. It is up to the next OSC and the next chairman.

Why are you announcing so late?
ISAF released important entry criteria and information for the Perth Worlds on February 1, 2010, and we could not have finalized selection until we received that information. Since then, we have been working with the USOC to determine all the details that go into the selection criteria. If you look at the selection documents, there are a lot of details to consider and it took us a few months to get it right.

To read the press release announcing the selection procedures, please click here. To read the details of the selection procedures, please click here.

Contact: Dana Paxton, 401-683-0800 x615

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