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ISAF outlines new plans for a revamped Sailing World Cup series

by Rob Kothe and the Sail-World Team on 3 Apr 2014
2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Mallorca, day 3 - 470 Men Thom Touw © http://www.thomtouw.com
The ISAF Sailing World Cup is the annual circuit of Olympic sailing for serious campaigners and up and coming sailors. The series is now seven years old, has attracted less media and sponsorship attention than ISAF had hoped and it’s still looking for mainstream media relevance, as President Carlo Croce has been saying loudly and clearly.

The Sailing World Cup Mallorca event currently in progress, succeeds because of its location and its timing in the Northern hemisphere spring. It’s a well-run event, warmer than most of Europe and in recent year’s event organisers have broken new ground trying to make the event media friendly.

Hull numbers on boats to make identification easier, excellent captioning on supplied images, supplied vision but in spite of all these efforts it does not attract mainstream TV or other mainstream media support in a country that is very sailing oriented. The event this year has lost its naming rights sponsor of six years, Spain’s largest insurance company MAPFRE.

Media coverage apart from local Palms media comes from the sailing media almost exclusively.

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) has announced plans for 2014 and partially for 2015 and beyond for the ISAF Sailing World Cup series in a serious attempt to change the situation.

The new centre-piece for the series, the ISAF Sailing World Cup Grand Final will bring together 20 boats in each Olympic class, at a four day regatta, the first of these will be held between December 10th and 24th, probably in the Middle East, mostly likely in Oman, with an as yet unknown prize purse.

Going forward ISAF is aiming with this Grand Final to add an annual focus, climaxing the Sailing World Cup series before the ISAF Annual Conference, so that means for 2015 onwards the finals will be sailed in October, so that the newly crowned ISAF Sailing World Cup Champions can be recognised there.

Given the tight date for 2014s, just a few days after Sail Melbourne that you would think would have to be with supplied boats. The event organisers will be providing the prize money and we guess the fall back is ISAF.

At the same time it has announced the appointment of John Craig, the Canadian born Race Officer, who was for 11 years the PRO at St. Francis Yacht Club and who most recently the PRO of the 34th America’s Cup, to the new position of Head of the ISAF Sailing World Cup to deliver the strategy. Craig will be moving from San Francisco to Southampton to join the overall ISAF team.

He is familiar with ISAF World Cup events, he has been a race officer at SWC Miami on many occasions and will be in Hyeres taking up the Challenge in a couple of weeks’ time. At St Francis and as a US Sailing Board member Craig has spent time at the Sponsorship coal face.

Qualification for the 2014 Grand Final will be based on results at the 2014 ISAF Sailing World Championships, 2014 ISAF Sailing World Cup Qingdao and the ISAF World Sailing Rankings released on 22 September 2014.
ISAF media release continues ‘Full implementation of the new ISAF Sailing World Cup will begin in December 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. The 2015 Grand Final is scheduled for October.
The regatta venues will be selected by ISAF and will be required to meet ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta specifications.

Qualification to the Grand Final is through performance at other graded regattas in the year (starting December of the previous year). The following will qualify in each Olympic Event:

Winner at each 200-point ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta;
Top continental crew (based on performance at 'home' SWC regatta);
Top three crews at the Class World Championships;
Top six on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings;
ISAF invitation wild cards.

Where this results in a fleet of less than 20, additional sailors will be taken from the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.

The top continental crew place guarantees every continent at least one place in each fleet at the Grand Final, and reflects the Olympic continental qualification that ISAF introduced for Rio 2016.

This morning in Palma, Antonio Gonzalez de la Madrid, ISAF Sailing World Cup Manager, talked at length to Sail-World.

‘There will be five ISAF SWC regattas planned for the ISAF Sailing World Cup 2015, plus the Grand
Final:
- One regatta in Melbourne, Australia, from 6 to 14 December 2014.
- One regatta in Miami, USA, from 24 to 31 January 2015.
- Two regattas in Europe, between April and June.
- One regatta in Asia.
- Grand Final, October 2015

All remaining venues, and specific dates, will be announced by end July 2014.’

Now Melbourne and Miami have contracts that run until 2016, so that is no surprise.

Two regattas in Europe, obviously Palma and Hyeres will put their hands up but so too might Weymouth Sail for Gold and Medemblik in Holland. This process will be expected to start over the next month. Beyond 2016 the number of regattas will no doubt be reviewed.

‘Qualification to the 2015 ISAF SWC Grand Final is through the following
‘Winner at each 200-point ISAF Sailing World Cup regatta;
‘Top continental crew (based on performance at 'home' SWC regatta);
‘Top three crews at the Class World;
‘Top six on the ISAF World Sailing Rankings;
‘ISAF invitation wild cards.’

Where this results in a fleet of less than 20, as will happen with many SWC winners also top ranked in the Rankings and in World Championships, then beyond Wild card which will no doubt be reserved for top guns returning after a break and key local stars, additional sailors will be taken from the ISAF World Sailing Rankings.

For the 2014 Grand Final in December, in addition to the Santander 2014 World Championship results and the ISAF World Sailing Rankings, the winner of ISAF SWC Qingdao and the top continental crew from each fleet at Qingdao will qualify to the Grand Final.

Kite boarding is scheduled for the ISAF SWC, something that will please John Craig who has nurtured Kite Board racing on San Francisco Bay.

Kite Board Racing will certainly be in place for next year’s European and Asian rounds. However, for Melbourne and Miami, as ISAF has existing contracts in place, this is something that has to be approved by the organizers. ISAF and IKA are currently discussing appropriate qualification and ranking systems.

The integration of Paralympic events into the ISAF Sailing World Cup is under review by ISAF and IFDS. We take that as meaning maybe, with some classes in some venues.

Every MNA will be allocated a 'home' SWC which is the ISAF SWC regatta in their continent (if there are two regattas in the same continent each MNA will be allocated to one of them), or, if a continent does not have an SWC round, the closest convenient SWC round.

ISAF will use the IOC allocation of countries to continents, except that the IOC continent of America will be divided into North and South in the same way as it is for the Youth Olympic Games and Rio 2016 qualification.

The ISAF SWC is already the preferred event for the continental qualification to Rio 2016 Olympics. Likewise it is expected that this will continue for qualification to Tokyo 2020, but decisions cannot be made until the IOC publishes its qualification guidelines for 2020.

However right now the focus from John Craig will how to break through from being high quality sailing events to mainstream sport, to bring in the long hoped for sponsorship dollars.

For instance in past efforts from ISAF to encourage the use of GPS tracking at events have been laudable, hoping to increase the coverage of the event but its too narrow in its focus, the mainstream audience does not care who got lifted on the left, or reamed on the right, sailing has to lift the profile of its personalities, so mast cam, head cam and audio will be needed to engage the audience, that surely must be a lesson learned from AC34.
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