by Bob Fisher
It is not that ISAF didn’t have advance warning; it has been in the public domain for many months that there were members of the class experimenting with 'Code Zero' type gennakers as a means of gaining an advantage in the predicted light conditions of Qingdao.
That was the time for ISAF to warn the class. It was obviously an emergency and should have been dealt with by emergency methods. Anyone could see that it would split the class into the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.
Whether it will work or not is not the question; it simply shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
Yet the official line, as issued on the ISAF website states: 'The concept of a smaller gennaker does not contravene the class rules.' It adds: 'Class Rule G.5.3 does not specify minimum dimensions.'
Just as soon as this unhealthy development was even suspected, ISAF and the Tornado class should have acted.
Even if, in normal circumstances, it takes a year to change class rules, it was not beyond the wit of man to take drastic action in order to avoid complete unpleasantness at the Olympics.
Hats off to those who exploited the loophole, but bad cess to those who permitted it.
The whole matter will probably resolve itself. The risk of using the smaller area gennaker, which would be considerably slower downwind in anything over seven knots, is extremely high.
While the upwind gain might be huge in light winds, all the advantage could easily evaporate downwind. The betting is that no one will dare to measure one of the 'upwind' gennakers to use in the regatta, but the thought will have psychologically upset many of the class.
Not least of them are the Austrians, the Olympic champions, who have threatened to pack up their boat and head home if anyone should use the contentious sail.
Bad sports? Possibly, but it is a reaction that brings those in charge into considerable disrepute and will rob the regatta of one of its most competitive teams.