LONDON – One hears that the staff of World Sailing, with the support of the President and several but not all of the Board (formerly the Executive Committee), are planning a radical overhaul of the classes and events for the 2024 Olympics to be held in Paris with sailing slated for Marseille. Here is the 2024 lineup that will be proposed by World Sailing President Kim Andersen (DEN) and CEO Andy Hunt (GBR) and voted on by the WS Council early in the New Year:
Men's Classes (all singlehanded)
1) Finn – no change, but open manufacture as opposed to previously supplied boats/sails.
2) Laser – no change except for a new carbon topmast; monopoly manufacture but widespread and time-tested.
3) New foiling kite – to be determined, monopoly manufacture.
Women's Classes (all singlehanded)
4) Laser Radial – no change, monopoly manufacture but widespread and time-tested.
5) New singlehander for lighter women – to be determined, monopoly manufacture.
6) New foiling kite - to be determined, monopoly manufacture.
Mixed-Gender Classes (all doublehanded: one man, one woman)
7) 470 dinghy – only one mixed-gender event, open manufacture.
8) 49er skiff – only one mixed-gender event, monopoly manufacture, but widespread and time-tested.
9) Nacra 17 foiling catamaran – continued as a mixed-gender event as the non-foiling Nacra 17 was in Rio 2016, monopoly manufacture with tweaks from the foiling class yacht that will be used for the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
10) New offshore class – double handed, mixed-gender event, monopoly manufacture, presumably a Beneteau. Foiling? Long distance race with at least one overnight.
This 2024 lineup eliminates the two Windsurfer classes (RS:X men and women), as well as cutting back the dinghy (470) and skiff (49er) to just one mixed-gender event instead separate men's and women's events as in the past. Elimination of these four events makes way for the four new events above while keeping Sailing within the 10-event/medal limit imposed by the IOC.
The lineup equalizes the number of men and women competing, a stated goal of the IOC and WS.
Fully eight of the ten classes are single-source, hence "monopoly" manufacturers. Only two are open to be built by licensed builders: the venerable Finn and 470.
When kites were accepted into WS it was sold to the other classes with the assurance that kites would not become Olympic events unless the IOC granted Sailing two more events (up from the current 10 to 12) along with an increase in the IOC quota for sailing athletes to accommodate the two new classes. Forming their own Kiting Federation and getting IOC recognition would have taken a lot longer to get Olympic status. Obviously, if this proposal passes the kiters ("riders" as they are widely called, as opposed to sailors) are going to get their cake and eat it, too – at the expense of two traditional events.
You can debate the pros and cons of open manufacture, monopoly manufacture, supplied boats, etc., but one thing seems clear – the cost to compete will inevitably rise, further burdening the competitiveness of less well-off MNAs and benefiting the wealthier ones, notably GBR with their extensive centralized funding via the national lottery.
Your Ed. also hears that Mr Hunt, the WS CEO, is pushing for this plan to be put to an email vote in February instead of waiting until the Mid-Year Meeting in May when the Council would vote in person. An email vote will all but foreclose open debate with input by sailors, classes and MNAs. According to former WS (then ISAF) officials who were delegates at the time that the email voting procedure was put into the ISAF Regulations (including your Ed., who was head of the USA delegation in the 90s), email votes were only to be used for non-controversial, emergency decisions between meetings.