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Southern Spars

Olympic Sailing and the media

by Rob Kothe on 4 Sep 2008
Australia on the edge of control during the 49er medal race in the Qingdao Olympic Regatta 2008. Guy Nowell © http://www.guynowell.com
Sailing secures the least television ratings interest of any Olympic sport according to the IOC and the Medal race was implemented in an attempt to make the sport more media friendly. Did it deliver in Qingdao?

The ISAF designed Medal race, with ten boats instead of say 15-40, proved certainly less of a spectacle than much larger fleets.

Some believe the double points field of ten Medal race, has in fact reduced the excitement and drama that a single points compulsory full field final race would have delivered.

There are other problems caused by the double points system that we hope the ISAF designers had not intended. In the Laser class Paul Goodison (GBR) could take Gold by match racing his only competitor, Sweden's Rasmus Myrgren back through the fleet to 10th and last place and Goodison could finish ninth. The Swede had gone into the Medal race in the silver medal position but came out sixth.

If Mygren had been just one point back going into the medal race that scenario would not have occurred because he would not have threatened Goodison.

Understood by sailors, but ugly television and a tragedy for a sailor who did not deserve that result.

Some ask should Match Racing be banned in that Medal round?

What about the alternatives? Expatriate Aussie Jim Champ, who sails a range of development classes in Britain, has rescored the 2008 Qingdao Olympic regatta under single points for the Medal race and it’s interesting to see the medal changes. A quick glance at the data suggests that the medal race had made little difference but looking more closely its not as simple as it seems.

To look at Jim’s full data set go to http://www.devboats.co.uk/olympics08.htm

According to his data there would have been no changes if the top ten sailors sailed a final Medal race, which had single points but was compulsory in the following classes.

470 Women, Radial Women, Tornado or Ynglings

In the 470 Mens fleet, the Koster brothers would have taken Silver instead of finishing fourth. British silver medallist Nick Rogers and Joe Glanfield would have finished with a Bronze at the expense of Nic Charbonnier and Olivier Bausset (FRA).

After the drama filled 49er Medal race Australian's Nathan Outteridge and Ben Austin would have taken Bronze instead of Jan-Peter and Hannes Peckott (GER),

In the RS: X Men’s class there would have been the major change. Julien Bontemps capsize at the top mark in the Medal race cost him the Gold Medal, which on the alternate scoring, he would have still won. Kiwi Tom Ashley, who won Gold, was the beneficiary with Bontemps would have been relegated to Silver and Great Britain's Nick Dempsey would have taken Bronze instead of the Israeli's Shahar Zubari.

In the Stars Freddie Loof and Anders Ekstrom would have taken Silver instead of Bronze, costing Robert Scheidt and Bruno Prada their Silver medals.

In the Finns, the double points Medal race was tough on series number two sailor, Daniel Birgmark (SWE). He missed the podium but with a single point system would have been the Bronze medallist instead of Guillaume Florent (FRA).

In the Lasers, there could have been a major difference has match racing and double points not intervened. Mygren (SWE) would probably have had the Silver and Vasilij Zbogar (SLO) the Bronze rather than Silver, with Gustavo Lima who received Bronze possibly missing out.

Now all this data is based on the assumption of a ten-boat final ... a full field and who knows what might have happened?

More questions than answers here, I am afraid.

It will be interesting to see if anyone in the ISAF Councils will be interested in discussing Medal race alternatives to improve television ratings or will they just be focused on defending the indefensible, their decision to take the exciting and onboard camera enabled multihull, out of the Olympic line up.

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Now if ISAF can just explain how that will improve the media attractiveness of the Olympic classes, we will all be wiser.

As an aside, the Sail-World team conducted a quick poll amongst the journalists and photographers covering the Olympic regatta in Qingdao.

Just 35 of the 200+ group of television, mainstream and sailing media were asked 'Aiming to maximize the media appeal of the sailing sport, do you think the multihull should be the class disappearing from the London line up?'

The answer 35 No, Zero Yes.

Odd really.... but then they are media, so what would they know about media?

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