Olympic Medalist Jj Fetter Calls For Sailing Officials' Resignations In Lawsuit Dispute

SAN DIEGO (AP) — With American sailors in an Olympic slump, two-time medalist JJ Fetter is calling for the resignations of U.S. Sailing’s CEO, president and any other board member who supports a federal lawsuit against a sailing foundation and three of its principals, including former Olympic team boss Paul Cayard.

Fetter’s letter, sent Monday to U.S. Sailing President Richard Jepsen and the board of directors, was obtained by The Associated Press. It offers the most pointed criticism yet of the governing body’s lawsuit against the America One Foundation, Cayard, William Ruh and Jose Spina. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island on Jan. 16, which many in sailing felt distracted from the recent Olympic trials.

Cayard, one of the United States' most successful sailors, resigned as executive director of the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team a year ago. U.S. Sailing’s lawsuit seeks damages from One America, which had been a partner and financial supporter but now focuses on directly supporting athletes. It’s the latest upheaval for a once-dominant squad that has faded to an afterthought on the world stage after winning just one medal in the last three Olympics.

When he stepped down, Cayard told the AP he couldn’t work under a restructuring that would have him focus on fundraising while someone else ran the team. When he left, many donors followed him.

Fetter said the current board of directors has “repeatedly mucked up” its responsibility as a national governing body to support its athletes. She said “the most egregious recent actions” were filing the lawsuit and promoting a link to a confidential U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee report on Cayard’s management style on its website and by email to its membership.

Fetter wrote that Jepsen, CEO Alan Ostfield “and any other board members who are proponents" of the public fight with America One Racing "should resign and be replaced with experts in Olympic sailing success/development/maximizing the opportunity of LA2028.”

Reached by phone Wednesday, Fetter told the AP she had no further comment, “but I do stand by everything I wrote.” Fetter, of San Diego, has had numerous roles with U.S. Sailing, including International Selection Committee chair for the last two quads before resigning in November. She also has been on the Olympic Sailing Committee and the board of directors.

Fetter said in her letter that she was a volunteer at both Olympic trials in Miami. While impressed with the athletes, she added that the lawsuit “is especially misguided since America One Racing contributed so much to the success of the Trials by directly supporting so many of the athletes who competed.”

Jepsen, Ostfield and U.S. Sailing didn’t respond to requests for comment. Cayard also declined comment.

Fetter, like Cayard, is in the National Sailing Hall of Fame. She won a bronze medal in the Barcelona Games in 1992 and a silver in Sydney in 2000, both in the 470 class. She was the tactician and starting helmsman during much of the 1995 America’s Cup defender trials on what started out as an all-woman crew aboard Mighty Mary that was backed by industrialist and 1992 cup winner Bill Koch, before she was replaced by Dave Dellenbaugh. She is a four-time U.S. Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.

Cayard competed in the America’s Cup seven times; sailed in the Star class in the 2004 Athens Games, finishing fifth; and twice circumnavigated the globe, becoming the first American skipper to win one of sailing’s toughest challenges, the Whitbread Round the World Race, in 1998.

In an embarrassment on the English Channel in 2012, the U.S. failed to medal for the first time since the 1936 Berlin Olympics. San Diego’s Caleb Paine won a bronze medal in Rio in 2016, but the Americans were whitewashed again in Tokyo and have been overtaken by Britain on the all-time sailing medals table.

Some of the biggest names in sailing won Olympic medals for the U.S., including the late sailmaker Lowell North; the late Buddy Melges, who co-helmed the 1992 America’s Cup winner; sailmaker Mark Reynolds and even Mr. America’s Cup himself, Dennis Conner.

Dean Brenner, an alternate on the 2000 Olympic team and the chairman and team leader for the 2008 and 2012 Games, said the lawsuit “is completely misguided and an embarrassment to our sport. I join people like JJ and many others in the feeling that the current state of our Olympic program is a mess.”

Former U.S. Sailing president and Olympic Sailing Committee chairman Bruce Burton said he agreed with Fetter, calling the lawsuit “wasteful and unnecessary. … We’ve got to get these guys off the cliff. Everybody is standing on the edge of the cliff here."