CEO Column - Sail Canada Strategic Direction

CEO Column - Sail Canada Strategic Direction

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Kingston, ON

I wanted to thank everyone for your comments and feedback from my article titled “Sail Canada’s Winning Philosophy". The article generated some excellent discussion and I hope we can continue the dialogue and determine collectively how to build better athlete pathways.

The article was certainly not intended to supersede the important role everyone plays in the overall sport system- from instructors, coaches, officials, staff and volunteers. More on that in future articles.

As I stated in the article, “Now more than ever, we believe it is okay to win – we can win - and Canadians want (our athletes) to win!” My hope is that we can all work together to get Canadian sailors back on the Podium. Change comes about by raising the bar and changing our expectations.

To address the overall needs of the sailing community, Sail Canada is currently working on the development of a Strategic Direction document. This document will lead the organization to 2020 and beyond.

If you refer to the Sail Canada website –, under Governance and then Strategic Plan you will find the Strategic Plan. Sail Canada is now working on flushing out the details. Within the document you will see three STRATEGIC FOCUS AREAS of PARTICIPATION, DEVELOPMENT and PERFORMANCE.

At a recent semi-annual meeting of the Board of Directors, a considerable amount of time was spent gathering input from the PSAs and then reviewing, discussing and approving the Sail Canada strategic goals.

Under the Participation Strategic Goal, Sail Canada is working to increase the number of youth and adult sailors that come through the doors of our clubs and experience the sport of sailing. The goal in this area is as follows:

Sail Canada will increase overall participation levels for sailing in Canada by achieving 3% growth year over year in all types of participants* combined, through innovative collaboration employing a wide variety of promotional, sponsorship and stakeholder partnership avenues.

* Participants: paid club members, introductory events, program participants (CANSail registrants, Racing Sailors, Keel and Cruise Registrants, Power registrants), certified officials, certified instructors, certified coaches, Sail Canada Championships.

This goal can only be achieved if we work together collectively. Without the full support and involvement of the provinces and the clubs, Sail Canada cannot achieve this goal. Even the task of measuring this goal is impossible without accurate baseline data and accurate numbers going forward. This can also only happen if Sail Canada, working with its many committees of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), has a full range of quality services and programs that meet the needs of its members. Determining those needs and creating the right products is part of our challenge. That leads into the focus area of Development.

The stated goal in this area reads as follows:

Sail Canada will Identify and implement a complete set of Sail Canada program development pathways* and program delivery options in order to maximize numbers of new and returning program participants.**

* Initial pathway identification - Implementation of pathways Y1/delivery options Y1-Y3
** Improved overall development program enrolment rates 5% year over year by Y5

Although this statement may appear to be simple in its wording, it follows from the first goal statement that this can only happen if we have quality programs and services that our members expect from their national federation. To compete with the best in the world, our products have to be the best in the world. This does not happen over night and requires the best Subject Matter Experts to come together to help us produce these products. Again, as part of our dialogue I invite your input in this area.

The last focus area is Performance. The stated goals here is:

Sail Canada will create and implement a high performance athlete development system* with athlete pathways producing podium results and systematic development of national team athletes** with consistent medal contention
* System creation/implementation – Year 1
** Athlete performance improvement 20% year over year (cumulative in-kind/relative results) – Year 2+

As I have listened to the various stakeholders and athletes, this seems to one of the missing components for the sport of Sailing. There is no clear system or pathway for athletes to follow. Nor is there sufficient support. This was addressed in my previous article. We need to begin the work of developing a system in Canada from the club to the national level that can consistently provide a structure where athletes can reach their potential and achieve podium potential. Over the next couple of months we will be drawing upon some of the best technical minds in the country and the world to build and provide input into this plan. This High Performance Plan will lead us to 2024 and beyond.

Each of the Strategic Goals is followed-up with Key Performance Indicators for each area so progress on the goals can be measured.

As time goes on I will continue to update you on our progress.

I invite your comments and feedback at

Don Adams