Olympic Classes – Changes ahead – a view from Europe
by Rob Kothe & the Sail-World Team on 10 Nov 2013
The most influential group of sailing nations at Olympic level is obviously Europe and with ISAF proposing a very major change in the structure of the ISAF Sailing World Cup, World Championships and regional Olympic Class event, under consideration at the ISAF annual conference, currently taking place in Muscat, its timely to consider the views of the European Sailing nations, who between them run the largest number of Olympic class regattas.
49erFX Fleet - 2013 Sail for Gold Regatta © Paul Wyeth / RYA http://www.rya.org.uk
Providing some background on EUROSAF, Europe’s key sailing organisation from long term Secretary General of the Danish Sailing Union Dan Ibsen, (now retired) who has been a EUROSAF Vice President for the last six years and Chairman of the EUROSAF Events Committee, who has been involved in broader European sailing for three decades.
‘In the early days of the EU, there was a necessity to cooperate with Brussels on different matters, so in mid-80s, the EU sailing nations formed the European Union Sailing Association. Then in 1998 with interest from the whole of Europe we established the European Sailing Federation (EUROSAF) and 43 of the 51 ISAF European MNA’s are now members of EUROSAF.
‘EUROSAF’s focus is sailing events, it’s not about sailing politics, and our constitution keeps us out of that area. EUROSAF has been very important in building the relations between all of the European countries in the period since it was established. This is much easier to collaborate across Europe in a lot of different matters today than it was earlier.
‘From the mid 80’s we had established an Olympic class series of events which for many years was called Eurolymp. That series continued until the beginning of 2000 when ISAF built the new World Cup.
‘Since 2002 we had been running the Women’s Open and Match racing event European championships and we expanded that to include Youth Match Racing.
'However in the first instance from 1998 through to about 2008 the main focus was really on an exchange of information, race officials and so on and so forth.
'We established a very successful Race Officials Exchange Program, in which we help countries to get around 400 of their national educated judges, race managers and umpires out to European regattas in order to get experience and build up the merits if they want to be international judges recognised by ISAF later.
'In about 2009/10 we started to look at other opportunities, other events that we might organize that would be beneficial to sailing in Europe and from there we have moved forward a lot. Initiating and promoting these events is the core business of EUROSAF today.
'In 2012 we added our European Youth Sailing Championships which is a clone of the ISAF Youth Worlds. The same classes but with multiple country entries so crews who can’t get to ISAF worlds too get international sailing experience.
'We have the Club Championship of Europe which is run as a two boat team racing event using keelboats, called 2K team racing which is becoming quite popular.
'Our ideas there are that in the long run we would like to see each country that wants to participate holding a national championship and then the national champion coming forward to a European championship, rather like happens with European football.
‘When ISAF announced their plans for the new Sailing World Cup Regattas, we in EUROSAF saw an opportunity to fill the gap left in Europe with a new series of top level regattas, but in order to do so we needed the willing cooperation of the organisers which we received.
‘2013 has been our first year and our objective was to develop the series to be seen as one event, sailed at five different locations, and for it to become a premier series for Olympic sailors in Europe. This year we also welcomed a lot of competitors from outside Europe, and in total we had 55 nations participating in the events.
'Each of the regattas is a well-established events, Garda Trentino Olympic Week, Delta Lloyd Regatta in Medemblik, Sail for Gold in Weymouth & Portland and Kieler Woche, one of the oldest regattas in Europe, plus the Semaine Olympique Française, which in 2013 has taken place in La Rochelle.
‘The newly announced plan to be discussed this week at the ISAF annual conference in Oman have major implications for European Olympic class sailing events, and EUROSAF will be looking at what changes will need to occur with European events.’ concludes Ibsen.
We will publish comments from the President of EUROSAF Marco Predieri in the next few days.