As far as the "in-crowd" goes...Aussies and New Zealand sailors became the hot ticket item when the cup was finally taken from the US. I use the team nationality makeup as an example of the "in-crowd" mentality because there are a lot of good and great sailors from other nations but the perception has been that you need to have a New Zealand or Australian sailors on your team to be competitive. You generally need to either start your own team, or have an OUTSTANDING resume to get a roll on teams compromised from "little lake in inland Australia and a guy from a small-boat club in a mining suburb somewhere on the Australia coast" You are basically making my point for me in this regard. A guy in a little inland lake in Australia can make it but that generally doesn't happen from other countries.
I'm not bitter - it's not like I ever tried to get on a team or anything...but there is definitely an in-crowd that teams like to depend on for cup sailors - otherwise, it wouldn't be as difficult to have some sort of nationality requirement for some percentage of the team.
I suppose it depends on what you call having an "in crowd" and how strong it is, and to what extent it's just getting people who are known quantities on small boats and big. The Aussies and NZ sailors (and now the British sailors) became a hot ticket item when their nations were on top at the Olympics. Most, if not all, of them got their spots on AC teams by winning multiple world titles and Olympic medals. There's no recent 49er gold medallist sitting at home. There's no recent cat gold medallist sitting at home. That seems more like a meritocracy than an in-crowd.
The guy from the little country lake got there by winning multiple world A Class titles. The guy from the little mining surburb got there by winning multiple world titles and gold in 49ers and Moths. They weren't handed anything on a platter and the support they got in their early careers largely came from middle-class family and friends. They earned their spots by winning lots.
There are a couple of gaping holes in the rosters, though (there's no women, no 470 sailors and no windsurfers) but there seems to be no evidence that it's an in-crowd/out-crowd issue. Given the close links between Aussie Olympians from different classes, for example, it would seem unlikely that people like Slingsby are excluding the 470 sailors and windsurfers.
Anyway, I'll end by just saying that these guys are there because they are brilliant sailors in slow boats and fast ones, and the moves they are making are likely to be the best ones in the situation they are in.