SAN DIEGO – Paul Cayard has raced in the America’s Cup and the Olympics, and was the first American skipper to win one of sailing’s toughest challenges, the Whitbread Round the World Race.
One of America’s most accomplished sailors, Cayard now faces another arduous task: guiding the underperforming U.S. Olympic Sailing Team as its new executive director.
The United States has won just one sailing medal in the last two Olympics combined, a startling result for a country that used to dominate the podium. Americans failed to medal in the 2012 London Games, their first whitewash since 1936. They avoided a second straight shutout in 2016 thanks to Caleb Paine, who won the bronze in the Finn class.
Cayard takes over just four months before the rescheduled Tokyo Games, but says a turnaround is going to take much longer. His long-term goal is to dominate the podium at the Los Angeles Games in 2028.
“It’s going to be a steep hill. But then again, satisfaction is proportional to the steepness of the hill,” Cayard said in a phone interview. “If we do it, it’ll be a very satisfying accomplishment.”
Cayard said the United States has the talent and “it’s just not right” what’s happened at recent Olympics.
“America deserves to be fighting it out with Great Britain and Australia and New Zealand, not down in 10th place. That’s my main motivation, and I’ve been close to the Olympics,” he said.
The United States has won the most Olympic sailing medals in history, 60, but the well-funded British have quickly pulled within two and lead the Americans in gold medals, 28 to 19.