Medal-less to top sailing nation in two years

Toby Heppell looks at the impressive turn-around in the Australian Olympic Sailing team
Ask almost any sailor to name of the top ranked sailing team in the world and they will, in all probability, automatically answer “Team GBR”. Recently, however, Skandia Team GBR have slipped on the ISAF world rankings and, despite taking the most medals at the last two Olympic Games and boasting a host of world champions, the team are now ranked down in lowly fifth position. So which, at present, is the ‘top sailing nation’? Australia. Australia has long history of sailing, being the spiritual home of the skiff that is now so popular on the global dinghy scene. However, their history in terms of Olympic success has been limited, to put it mildly. The Australian Sailing Team walked away from the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 without a single medal to their name and, in 2006 - when they repeated this medal-less performance at the Olympic Test Event - they ranked an impressively poor 12th on the ISAF world ranking list. So how has this country gone from medal-less mediocrity to becoming top sailing nation on the planet and perhaps one of the biggest medal prospects at this years Olympics in the space of two short years? The answer is wholesale change. This came about from Yachting Australia commissioning a review of their practices which they called the 'Gold Medal Plan,' designed to look at what needed to happen within the sailing establishment to sort Australia out as an Olympic sailing nation. In essence this involved a large shake-up of the entire management system from top to bottom and the introduction of a new Olympic Director in the form of very successful businessman and average – in his words -Star sailor, Michael Jones (above) as Olympic Director. "I actually was not part of that review process," Jones explains. "They decided a new