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Performance Pathways Strategy

Australian Sailing Performance Pathways – 2022 Strategic Update

Australia has a proud history of success in international sailing. Our champions have worked their way to success at senior levels through various paths and classes, supported by great coaches and their tireless efforts in seeking better racing opportunities which have delivered countless World Champions and eight Olympic Champions since 2008. 

To ensure young sailors gain access to the best support as they progress through their sailing pathway, Australian Sailing (AS) continues to evolve its Performance Pathway which outlines progression from competitive club sailing to the Australian Sailing Team (AST). 

“The development of the Performance Pathway was part of a sport led nationwide drive to support the sustainability of Australian success on the world stage in partnership with the AIS and State institutes,” said Australian Sailing’s National Performance Pathways Manager Ken Lynch. “This drive was supported by research and consultation, from the State Underpinning Program review culminating in the establishment of the Performance Pathway Team and the launch of programs like  the AS Futures Program.” 

Recent work has seen a significant push in the ‘Super-charging coaching’ priority within the AS High Performance Strategy, with the introduction of the #NextLevel coaching and Coach Advance Programs, both built on the foundation of the ‘Next Level Coach Development Framework’. This follows on from the introduction of the Athlete Development Framework, the Futures Program and enhancement of daily training environments, all aimed at supporting sailors with the potential to deliver medal success for Australia in the future.   

To ensure our Performance Pathway is a best-in-class program we are evolving how we deliver opportunities to young sailors as they strive for a future as high-performance athletes. 

“Australian Sailing is committed to the continuous improvement of our youth and performance pathways” said AS President Daniel Belcher. “These developments are strategy being turned into action, which we believe will give us the best chance of delivering a system that develops repeatable, sustainable success up to and including Brisbane 2032.” 

Strategy Update – Next Steps  

The work of the Performance Pathways team is part of AS’s overall High Performance Strategy and focused on the attraction, retention and development of sailors in the lead-up to and through the performance pathway. Key elements of the strategy identified as important to future success are: 

  • Promoting a One Team - training and competition-based Squad Approach. Pursuing the approach that has worked so successfully within the Australian Sailing Team’s ILCA 7 (Laser) 
  • Ensuring access to bigger fleets and developing ‘brilliant racers’ with enhanced regatta coaching solutions and a more progressive approach to domestic and international competition exposure, particularly in Europe 
  • Being more deliberate in targeting events to support the long-term development of athletes and coaches 

“I have been part of developing a very strong ILCA 7 squad over the past ten years and have seen the enormous benefit that provides on a daily basis and over the long term,” said Australian Sailing Technical Director Michael Blackburn. “Given we are relatively remote to the big fleets in Europe, it’s vital that we foster domestic squads for high-value, efficient and effective training. Strong squad competition and comradery are key ingredients to enabling performance. Extending that squad thinking to lower in the pathway embeds that thinking early giving us a greater ability to retain and develop young sailors in a wonderful environment.” 

To achieve these goals, we will be implementing the following projects over the next 12 months: 

AS Futures – Program Extension

AS Futures (ASF) provides opportunities for emerging athletes to experience (and gain exposure to) what it takes to be a high-performance athlete. This year the ASF piloted coaching support at targeted international regattas. In 2023 we are looking to extend this work to cover more classes and introduce supplementary bridging support to help the top Futures sailors achieve performances that can see them step up and into the ASS/AST. 

AS Fast Boat Development Program

The identification and development of athletes (and in particular females), in the Olympic fast boat classes of 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17. This is a key Performance Pathway priority leading into the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympic Games. This program will continue to grow and evolve in 2023 following a very successful 2022 season. 

New Olympic Class Launch Programs

We continue to increase and raise the calibre of coaches across our network and will be launching some further #nextgen initiatives focused on identifying athletes with potential in the new classes, inclusive of female specific programming. Utilising the lessons learned via the QAS Youfor2032 program and complemented by the ongoing delivery of the AS Foil Labs, the ASF program will continue to accelerate growth in the new classes.   

AS Performance Pathway Coach Development Program 

The ongoing development of the Coaches responsible for guiding our athletes on and off the water remains a high priority for AS. The Coach Development program includes a range of opportunities designed to support the technical and leadership capabilities of coaches working with athletes in State Sailing Pathway Programs and AS Performance Pathway national initiatives. As part of this, with the support of our partners at the AIS we will be extending our #nextlevel Coach Program through to Paris 2024. 

AS Youth Programs 

Talented youth sailors are ‘The Future’ and form the funnel into the AS Performance Pathway. The ongoing sustainability of Australia’s success at the Olympic Games is founded on the effective identification, confirmation, and provision of developmentally appropriate support of youth sailors displaying potential for high performance. The AS Youth program offers a range of initiatives to support and inspire our next generation of Olympic sailors. 

Class World Championships 

As per our strategy we believe that our collective energies and resources are best utilised in focusing on Class World Championships, which will allow more sailors (larger squads) to compete and provide AS a greater opportunity to provide enhanced coaching support (both in the lead-up to and at the event).  

We will be making a strategic shift to significantly grow the number of sailors in the Australian Sailing Youth Team and will send them to their respective Class World Championships as opposed to the World Sailing Youth Worlds (WSYW) to give more young sailors the opportunity to represent Australia and to give them the best opportunity to develop their skills in bigger fleets with better access to coaching. The aim being that more sailors get the opportunity to develop through experiencing the selection process, preparation, and competing in overseas regattas in an Australian Sailing Youth Team environment. 

Given our strategic focus, it is not our intention to select a team to go to the WSYW (in its current format). AS however recognises that the regatta enjoys a long history and Australian Sailing through our World Sailing representatives are working collaboratively with World Sailing to explore opportunities for how the Youth Worlds regatta could evolve. Our focus and priority must always be on developing the strongest Performance Pathways program in order to deliver Australian Olympic success at LA 2028, Brisbane 2032 and beyond.   

This is an important change which will better enable our Youth Sailors to stay connected to their potential entry to the performance pathway and have access to the type of coaching and support that will better support their long-term development.  

This approach is seamlessly aligned to the HP strategy through the: 

  • Implementation of the AS squad-based approach earlier in the pathway to develop and enhance this cultural norm 
  • Deliberate focus on competing within larger competitive fleets in developing ‘brilliant racers' 
  • Enhancement of regatta coaching solutions 
  • Progressive approach to domestic and international competition exposure, particularly in Europe 
  • Better retention of sailors, by removing the constraint of one boat per nation  
  • Broadening of selection windows that allow for greater observations over time versus the restriction of team size coupled with performance at only one event 
  • Effective use of AS Performance Pathways resources 

We will appropriately acknowledge the expanded Australian Sailing Youth Team sailors, with all members receiving team apparel, recognition on Australian Sailing’s digital channels and listing on the Australian Sailing Youth website and Annual Report as we have previously done with the team travelling to WSYW. 

Additional AS Youth Initiatives include: 

AS Youth International Regatta Coaching Support  

The AS Performance Pathway Team works closely with the National Class Associations to provide support for an AS identified coach to attend key international regattas (outside of class worlds) and lead on-water coaching for identified Australian Youth sailors participating in the regatta.

AS Youth Sail Coaching Clinics

AS Youth Sail Coaching Clinics provide an open development opportunity to all sailors in many youth classes including Youth Olympic Pathway classes to receive coaching and education from State Performance Program coaches and athletes.

AS Youth Integration  

To enable a squad-based approach, racing in bigger fleets and access to better quality coaching for more young sailors identified as having future potential state programs will offer invitations to selected sailors to be part of state training squads at appropriate times through the year.

These initiatives and the continued evolution of the performance pathway is an exciting prospect for the young sailors aspiring to be future medal winners on the world stage. We will continue to look to evolve and support better holistic practices in the development of Australia’s sailors and coaches.  

How to find out more  

The Australian Sailing Performance Pathways staff will have a presence at the following YouthSail events, where they will be available to discuss the strategy and how it will integrate with your club or class association: 

YouthSail QLD (Keppel Bay Sailing Club) – September 22-24 

Westsail (Mounts Bay Sailing Club) – September 28-29 

YouthSail NSW (Point Wolstoncroft) - October 1-3 


Australian Sailing will be hosting a webinar at 6pm AEST on Wednesday 12 October where our Performance Pathways staff will provide more detail about the exciting changes to our strategy. We encourage all interested parties to register to attend the webinar here

For any questions regarding Australian Sailing’s Performance Pathways please contact Ken Lynch (National Performance Pathway Manager) or Ash Brunning (Performance Pathways Technical Manager).