Double Olympic medalist steps along the path ahead of Kiteboarding
by Bruce Kendall on 21 Jul 2012
Double Olympic windsurfing medalist Bruce Kendall looks at the issues with adopting Kiteboarding as an Olympic sport, and reflects on the lessons learned and experiences after Windsurfing travelled the same path since its selection for the 1984 Olympics.
Lacking spectacle??? Patrik Diethelm hammers into the mark - PWA Sotavento Fuerteventura World Cup 2012 © John Carter / PWA http://www.pwaworldtour.com
So far there have been four boards, the Windglider, Div II, Mistral and now RS:X.
Windsurfing came in to much the same opening overtures as the Kiteboard, and has taken over 20 years to find its feet, including developing class progressions for junior and youth sailors. Windsurfing too, back in 1984 was largely a recreational sport, with spectacular wave jumping and freestyle disciplines and limited racing.
That too was a sport that serenaded the International Sailing Federation Council with the same media friendly lyrics back in the 80's. It has the highly developed and spectacular PWA Tour. Back in the 80's few if any of the windsurfing organisations worked out of sailing clubs, or were affiliated to their national organisations.
So is there a need for a radical change to reset the Olympic boardsailing event?
Bruce Kendall takes up the story, looking at the lessons from windsurfing since its adoption as an Olympic sport in the early 1980's.
It is interesting that the racing peaks of yachting - the Americas Cup World Series with the AC 45's and the next Volvo race, the biggest offshore multi hull class MOD70 along with all the Olympic classes have chosen the One Design concept as it is the most affordable, equal and fair type of racing to attract more entries.
I am sure ISAF will push to make Kite Racing a one design by 2016 for the same reasons. If not, the global numbers will never grow as the developing nations will never keep up financially with the new designs.
For Kite racing in the Olympics advocates to say 'kite racing is not ready to be one design' is the same as saying 'Kite Racing is not ready to be Olympic.'
I am sure when Kite racing becomes One Design it will then face the same issues Olympic Class Windsurfing has faced since 1984.
The Olympic fleets will initially grow quickly.
This happened with Windsurfer Class, Windglider, Div11, Mistral and RSX.
Then the top sailors get so good the weekend warriors won't finish inside the time limit and choose to race some thing else easier and faster and then they and others out side the Olympic Class complain the Olympic gear is out of date and not reflecting the sport. They fail to realize it is either a lack of the right body shape, ability, commitment or finances to get them to the top.
When Olympic Kite racing becomes One design, it will likely also be seen by many kite surfers as 'out of date' and 'not reflecting the sport.'
I am sure many free style and surfing kite surfers already look at kite racing this way and possibly don't care if Kites are in the Olympics or not. They are happy doing their thing.
Pro Windsurfers are on open/production equipment - but they either have very rich parents or are sponsored all their expenses and equipment. Certainly people from developing nations never get to the top and the pro events remain limited to a small number of nations. Not good for the Olympics.
Due to the reliance on wind minimums event results are not a sure thing. This is why the pros cannot be sure of getting strong event sponsorship and large prize money as other sports do.
I am guessing that Kite Free style events will face similar issues with sponsorship due to wind minimums also.
Sponsors need an event that starts on time with a result regardless of the weather conditions. This is why so many stadiums now have covers. What the event looks like is almost secondary. As long as physical effort and emotions can be watched, with a clear commentary with graphics to show clearly what is happening and how the result is reached, spectators will watch.
Sailing events must be able to compete in next to zero to over 30 knots.
Sitting in a still boat is less interesting to watch than a whole lot of boats flapping about - at least they start and finish inside the time limit. It is time Sailing looked outside the square to be media friendly and 'Be on time.'
Starting needs to be tidied up to make things clear. No official start when someone is over early. Very confusing to watch someone racing, that is not racing because they started early. No other sport allows it. Why should sailing?
The general public are more likely to know successful Olympic windsurfing names due to the general media, while the windsurfing public are more likely to follow the Pros due to the publicity they get from the industry.
The reality is Windsurfing and Kite surfing and yachting are fringe sports compared to the likes of tennis, soccer, golf etc and it will probably always be like this.
http://www.sail-world.com/NZ/index.cfm?SEID=0&Nid=99752&SRCID=0&ntid=156&tickeruid=0&tickerCID=0!Volvo_Ocean_Race goes one design and media impact
http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?Nid=99499&refre=y&ntid=118&rid=6!Click_here for the Figaro One Design
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