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U.S. Sailing Olympic Development Team visits U.S. SailGP Team

by Laura Muma 29 Jun 00:01 PDT
S Sailing Olympic Development Program visits U.S. SailGP Team © Matt Knighton / SailGP

As part of their ongoing effort to inspire, support and encourage the next generation of American sailors, the United States SailGP Team and SailGP hosted US Sailing's Olympic Development Program (ODP) last week at the team base during the New York SailGP event.

More than 44 young adults ranging from 16 - 22 who are members of the U.S. Sailing ODP, an initiative designed to identify and support the next generation of U.S. Olympic sailors, were in the New York area taking part in a training camp at Oakcliff Sailing. The SailGP base tour gave them a chance to meet the U.S. SailGP Team and opened their eyes to the potential of becoming a future U.S. SailGP Team athlete.

During the tour, U.S. SailGP Team Coach Tom Burnham shared his coaching strategy for the young U.S. SailGP Team. "It's pretty simple in that we are sailing these new high-tech boats with the goal to learn them and learn how to sail them. We're taking it back to basics: it's a lot of focus on boat preparation, boat handling and speed, tactics and working through that list."

Building off that strategy, Burnham then elaborated that there was more to the formula when considering a career at the top-level of the sport.

"What I look for in future U.S. SailGP athletes is really the whole package," he said. "Athletes need to have great understanding of how to sail high-speed and foiling boats, self-discipline and self-motivation, a high level of fitness and most importantly, a great attitude and understanding of what makes a great team member."

Charlotte Versavel is an accomplished 16-year-old Nacra 15 sailor participating in the ODP, witnessed this work ethic first hand as she was invited to ride-along the supercharged F50 during a practice session. Though the session was unfortunately cancelled due to the weather, Versavel was beaming nonetheless.

"I can totally see SailGP in my future," she said. "Sailors who have grown up going to these ODP clinics and are now sailing Olympic boats, that's the pathway to this top level of the sport."

U.S. Sailing ODP Director Leandro Spina joined his athletes on the tour. "It's great for the kids to see that the sailors on the U.S. SailGP team used to be at their level and that this elite level is possible," said Spina. "It's so important to introduce them to their heroes because they can relate to their stories and understand there is a pathway."

Tom Herbert-Evans, SailGP's youth program manager, led the base tour for Spina and the youth sailors. "SailGP is passionate about offering a new future for young athletes," said Herbert-Evans. "It's a truly professional league in the fastest and highest tech boats, and we are focused on efforts to turn a competitive passion into a sustainable career."

Next month at Cowes SailGP in England, SailGP will launch its INSPIRE program, a community, education and outreach initiative that will aim to use sailing as a force for good. SailGP INSPIRE will be the first-of-its-kind global youth sailing and career program with three pathways, ranging from children to young adults.

During the base tour, U.S. SailGP Team Helmsman Rome Kirby related strongly with the youth sailors and encouraged them to keep pursuing the elite levels of the sport. "I began like you, sailing in Optis and dinghies, then going through the youth sailing programs, college sailing and then got an incredible opportunity to join the Volvo Ocean Race. That led to America's Cups, big boat campaigns and now here with SailGP.

"Whichever path you take, you have to persevere," Kirby said. "There are a lot of ways to get involved from boat build, design or coaching, but it doesn't just happen. Like anything elite, you've got to stay at it."

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