“One problem we have here,” said Oakcliff Executive Director and America’s Cup veteran Dawn Riley, as she packs several dozen chickens, soon-to-be-consumed by hungry sailors, into gently-humming industrial refrigerators, “is that many people think our programs, and what we offer, are simply too good to be true.”
Any sailor who visits Oakcliff’s Oyster Bay, N.Y. facility for the first time will undergo an inevitable period of wide-eyed wonder. Over 100 racing boats owned by the program line the town’s mooring field and dry storage areas. Inside the main Oakcliff facility, an America’s Cup style base contains endless rows of sails, spars, equipment, workspaces, and comfortable living quarters.
One person who is fully aware of what Oakcliff has to offer aspiring American sailors is Terry Hutchinson, Executive Director and Skipper of New York Yacht Club American Magic, U.S. Challenger for the 36th America’s Cup. Founded in 2010, Oakcliff has a stated goal of boosting American success at all levels of high-performance sailing, and to that end, Oakcliff has become an early partner of American Magic.
“We need to open that door back up [to Americans] and really expand those opportunities in our sport,” said Hutchinson, who arrived along with key team members to train with Oakcliff graduates for four days in late October.
“My first experience in the Cup was with America One, which was just awesome,” said Hutchinson. “I was hired to do one thing and I ended up trimming the main sail. At the time I can remember thinking early on, ‘Oh man, this isn't really what I want to do.’ But I stuck with it. my only advice would be to jump if the opportunity presents itself. If it's not exactly what you want to do, don't worry about it, because in chasing the experience and being part of a bigger team and part of a bigger cause, you'll gain so much experience and expertise.”
To that end, American Magic put Oakcliff graduate through their paces, with the evaluations ranging from physical fitness, to sailing theory, to on-the-water skills. If any Oakcliff personal end up with American Magic at some point during the campaign, it could be in any number of roles.
“When you look at the American Magic team, we have over 100 team members but only 21 sailors,” said Hutchinson. “21 sailors out of 100 team members tells you where the balance of development is.”
James Lyne, American Magic’s head coach and a man with over a dozen world championship titles to his name, said that it was important to focus on professionalism, and to keep the subject matter relatively broad during the training week.
“What we're doing is providing them with some high-level training and with some of the skills that we that use in the Americas Cup, and they can transfer that over to some of their sailing skills at the very start of their careers,” said Lyne. “This is a great way of fast-tracking those kids up to a higher level of sailing.”
“Oakcliff is simply a center for people that want to come here and up their game,” said Riley. "We're super excited with the partnership with the American magic. Everybody wants to do the America's Cup and this is an opportunity for the U.S. Cup team to come in and see what we're doing and for our athletes to see where the bar is. The atmosphere here is just electric. There is a buzz.”
Oakcliff has successfully placed over 200 graduates into marine industry positions since 2010, and is actively seeking new students for its programs. To find out more about Oakcliff, visit their homepage.