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Olympic Classes: Is World Sailing planning an even more radical Olympic shake-up than previously reported, with the Finn and 470 men/women events now facing elimination?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 

SAN FRANCISCO – On today's weekly live Sailing Illustrated webcast special guest Bob Fisher (GBR) and your Ed. had a lengthy discussion on, among other topics, the future of sailing in the Olympics. Both of us expressed deep concern about the direction World Sailing appears to be taking to continue eliminating popular, well-established classes with wide geographic spread, run by sailors (i.e., owners' associations) in favor of new or small monopoly-manufacture classes controlled by World Sailing and their licensees.

 

Previously, World Sailing eliminated from the Olympics the venerable and popular Star Class.

 

Tonight, your Ed. has heard from several normally reliable sources closely connected to World Sailing that, indeed, the WS leadership is pushing an even more radical shake-up of the Olympic events/classes for 2024 than previously reported. If our sources are correct, World Sailing President Kim Andersen (DEN) and CEO Andy Hunt (GBR) are now maneuvering to drop the Finn and 470 (men and women) classes to accommodate the following 2024 lineup:

 

Men

49er, two-person skiff

Laser, one-person dinghy

RS:X (modified), one-person foiling windsurfer

TBD, one-person foiling kite-board

 

Women

49er FX, two-person skiff

Laser Radial, one-person dinghy

RS:X (modified), one-person foiling windsurfer

TBD, one-person foiling kite-board

 

Mixed Gender – one male, one female

Nacra 17, two-person foiling catamaran

Beneteau 37, two-person offshore yacht

 

In December Sailing Illustrated  foretold this radical shake-up in a world exclusive, also revealing that World Sailing planned to use electronic (email) voting this month to begin the process. After our December report WS issued two statements pooh-poohing our report, and denying any intention to use email voting. But on Monday of this week they took the first step toward eliminating the Finn and 470 classes by putting them, along with the RS:X sailboards (the current non-foiling version), "under review." Monday's vote was conducted by email. 

 

A number of senior WS delegates argue that email voting is illegal under the WS By-laws except in extraordinary circumstances for routine, non-contentious matters, and that such important decisions should have been made in-person at World Sailing's Midyear meeting in May.

 

Voting aside, this lineup begs a number of questions about the future of Olympic sailing, not the least of which is whether larger people would be effectively eliminated from competing.

 

Coincidentally, in tonight's Scuttlebutt Europe the following letter appeared from Mr David Evans in the UK. We don't believe we've met the gentleman, but his "Observations on Sailing in the Olympics" has struck a bigger-picture chord, at least with your Ed., apropos the apparent intentions of World Sailing revealed above. Mr Evans writes:

 

The concept that sailing in the Olympics is the height of skill, expertise and competition is a complete nonsense. With only one competitor for each country, the competition is nowhere near the level it will be for an equivalent World Championship, where it is likely there will be many competitors from a few countries who would dominate and be far better than most of the Olympic competitors.

 

The impact of "squads" and intensive so called "elite" athletes on our sport is pervasively corrupt and leads to the impression that these are actually the best sailors in a given Country. This is clearly no so as the majority of sailors wouldn't be seen dead in Olympic class boats - with the possible exception of the ancient and poorly designed Laser (stupid mainsheet system, silly small rudder blade, dreadful sail design, hopeless rig that cannot be softened or hardened to suit crew weight). In the UK competition at the top in the UK, of say, the Merlin Rocket, International 14, 505 Fleets is at a far higher level than in the Olympic Classes.

 

The overwhelming majority of sailors choose to race boats that suit their waters, their wallets and that give them most fun - look at the large fleets such boats as the SB achieve regularly, even older designs like the enterprise, Squibs etc manage to put out on a regular basis, I am certain the same holds true for the US, France, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Australia etc etc.

The biggest issue is that youngsters are continually put into squads then graded, coached and over-trained to death and funnelled in such a way that ultimately most leave the sport.

 

Normal average young sailors, are put off, find they cannot compete with parents and sponsors spending fortunes on new kit, so go away and do another sport that is just plain more fun.

 

Recently in the UK an Olympic Gold Medallist was beefing that since she has won her Gold Medal and had given up Olympic sailing, that she was struggling to get a job and that no one was interested in the fact that she was an "elite athlete" - well it took her ten years, but eventually the penny dropped, no one was interested at all, even the media were not, now she wasn't going to win any more Olympic medals.

 

The more quickly sailing is out of the Olympics, then our sport will recover and once again become challenging fun for all ages and for all the family. After all racing is only part of the fun, just going out sailing as a bunch of teenagers, generally messing about in boats, is infinitely more rewarding. Being yelled at by coaching boats and being subjected to hours of in-depth video analysis when one gets ashore, isn't fun in any way.

 

Sailing as a sport is dying because it is not fun for youngsters. Mixed age sailing is what is needed, I recall as a young teenager nearly 60 years ago hanging on every word in the sailing club bar from older competitors as they advised on how to do it better, what I had done wrong, how to set my boat up better, these older guys (and girls) became life-long friends and examples of not only how to sail well, have fun whilst doing it, but also life long examples of how to behave and conduct oneself both on and off the water! -- David Evans

 

As always, SI appreciates the views and constructive comments of our readers, either in the comments section below, or on our Facebook page. 

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