AARHUS, DEN – The sailing media just received a press release (at 0100 Europe time) from the organizers of World Sailing's "Sailing World Championships" (of Olympic Classes) being held this week in Aarhus, DEN as a test event for next year's main Olympic qualifier regatta.
The headline, "Aarhus tests champions as Nacra medal race cancelled." That seemed peculiar until you read through the release to find the disturbing news buried in the last paragraph:
“The Nacra 17 medal races scheduled for Saturday 12 August are cancelled. World Sailing received a notification from Nacra Sailing on Friday 11 August stating that [they] are recalling all foiling configuration Nacra 17s (including retrofitted versions) in order to replace the bearings for the dagger boards. Nacra Sailing has urged all owners not to sail these boats until the replacement bearings are fitted.”
Past World Sailing (then ISAF) President Paul Henderson and any number of other senior-serious international leaders in our sport have been on the warpath against rushing an essentially new Olympic Class – a foiling version of the Nacra 17s raced in Rio – into use at the 2020 Olympics without adequate worldwide availability and testing of the yachts being produced by a single-source, monopoly manufacturer licensed by World Sailing.
In June Mr Henderson wrote forcefully about the Nacra 17 situation, among other World Sailing topics, here in SAILING ILLUSTRATED in an article entitled, "The World Sailing emperors have no wetsuits."
After reading this evening's release, Mr Henderson texted your Ed. the following:
"They have put this [expletive deleted] into the Olympics totally against the Rules and Regs of World Sailing. All Olympic equipment must be tested and approved five years before the Games. Only the wealthy countries can play in this game. Totally against the IOC Charter."
You can argue with Mr Henderson's direct and at times caustic style, as I sometimes did when in the 90s I was head of the US SAILING's delegation to IYRU/ISAF and he was President. However, more often than not Paul is spot on – as he appears to be yet again.
For the last month your Ed. has been hearing from normally reliable sailing sources in Europe that there are more than a few problems with the build of the foiling Nacra 17s, and that in some conditions the new foilers are actually slower than the 2016 Olympic non-foiling Nacras.
No doubt there is more to this story, especially when the manufacturer has issued a warning to owners against sailing the boats until after they are fixed. What happened in Aarhus to cause such a warning and the cancellation of Saturday's medal race? Developing....
Regardless, it's a sad day for Olympic multihull sailors who, less three years before the 2020 Games, have to return their boats to the manufacturer – assuming they were one of the few fortunate teams to get a foiling NACRA 17 in the first place – with no idea when, if ever, they will get them back.
Ironic choice of music for this promotional video of the foiling Nacra 17.