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Marine Resource 2016

Second ISAF submission announced for Kiteboarding Olympic Event

by Richard Gladwell on 15 Mar 2011
Kiteboarding Worlds, Course Racing, San Francisco, August 2009 Erik Simonson/ ©

Yachting New Zealand has announced a second submission made to the International Sailing Federation regarding the 2016 Olympic Events.

Last November, the ISAF announced a proposed slate of ten events for the 2016 Olympic regatta in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The events, which included two new Mixed Events were approved by the ISAF pending confirmation at its May Mid-Year Meeting. Part of the Events slate was the bracketing of two disciplines - Windsurfing and Kiteboarding. It was not known at the time whether the ISAF intended competitors to compete in both disciplines to win a single medal, or if one of the disciplines was to be dropped from the Event.

Since then there has been little initiative shown by the ISAF in the discussion, although both the incumbent discipline, Windsurfing, and Kiteboarding have each been frequent in their statements as to which event should prevail.

Windsurfing, or Boardsailing as it was previously known was first introduced in 1984 as a Mens event, and as a Womens event in 1992 and has seen three changes of equipment (types of board) in that time with the latest being the RS:X developed by Neil Pryde in current use.

New Zealand has been one of the most successful countries in Olympic competition in the Boardsailing/Windsurfing discipline - mainly through the efforts of brother and sister combination, Bruce and Barbara Kendall who have between them won five Olympic medals including two Gold.

Four New Zealand boardsailers/windsurfers have won a total of three Gold medals, three Bronze and one Silver in a total of seven Olympiads.

After the 2008 Olympics, the ISAF established an Olympic Commission on the back of some rather unflattering statistics for the Olympic sailing regatta relative to other sports, and when it reported back in May 2010 the Olympic Commission called for sweeping changes in the sport at the Olympic level specifically, but at all levels of the sport generally.

Regarding the Equipment (ISAF-speak for classes sailed) the Olympic Commission had this to say:

'Select Equipment that is challenging to sail; is as far as possible one design; and is capable of being supplied to major events.

Select Events and Equipment that are suitable, appealing and accessible for youth, ensuring that there is a single step pathway from Youth to Olympic competition. NOTE: All Olympic Sailing Events should be accessible to sailors immediately they cease to be youth sailors.

Both in selecting Equipment, and in making decisions to change it, consider as major factors cost, in terms of capital and development, and availability around the world. Consider and vote on the 10 Events and Equipment as a single slate.'

Those comments and others have prompted many in the sailing world to question whether the current set of Olympic Events, presents the best shop-window for the sport. And whether they are sufficiently attractive to entice new sailors to the sport, or increase numbers of sailing fans.

The selection of Olympic Events has been long-riddled with politics and lobbying by classes to ensure their class retains its place in the next Olympic Regatta.

That activity reached its zenith in November 2007 with the dropping of the multihull event from the 2012 Olympics. Subsequently the rest of the elite sailing world voted with its feet and chequebooks and moved into a variety of multihull sailing events from Extreme 40's, transoceanic sailing, short handed sailing, America's Cup, and now the wingsailed AC45.

That decision has left the ISAF Council to look awkwardly at its handiwork, and to be perceived as being out of touch with the sport it is charged with administering.

The world sailing speed record is held by a Kiteboarder, yet that discipline too is lacking from the Olympic line-up.

While ISAF looks set to right its wrong with the re-introduction of the multihull, that in turn makes the four yearly exercise of fitting of an Olympic quart into a pint pot that much more difficult. The Sailing Olympics are restricted to just 380 competitors but more importantly just ten events - yet there are usually 11 and now maybe 14 events vying for one of the ten Event places.

The re-introduction of a multihull, plus two new Kiteboarding events (Men and Women) would see three of the current classes displaced, if there were just ten events.

Historically the longest established classes, with their former sailors dominating the ISAF Council, have been able to fend off moves for their replacement, leaving the world body to fed upon its young.

In other words the classes that are most at risk of displacement from the Olympics are its most recent - purely and simply because they lack the delegate penetration and lobbying ability of the more established classes.

The multihull was the latest morsel on that diet, allowing the oldest classes, being the 100year old Star, the 60year old Finn and 50year old 470 to once again compete in the 2012 Olympics.

Yesterday, Yachting New Zealand took the unusual move of announcing a submission to the ISAF, ahead of the more usual release, next month, of the flood of submissions received by the world body. That YNZ submission effectively endorsed the dropping the the Mens Keelboat by the ISAF in November 2010, by definition advocated dropping the Womens Keelboat.

YNZ also dropped both the contentious Mixed classes and called for Evaluation Trials in the Mens High Performance Singlehander, which would see the Finn go up against the spectacular Foiling Moth and various singlehanded trapeze classes - some of which also carry asymmetrical spinnakers.

In the latest submission announcement Yachting New Zealand is calling for the ISAF to seek two more medal events from the International Olympic Commission to accommodate both Kiteboarding and Windsurfing. The former is seen as a new sport, and would certainly add to the Olympic spectacle.

The ability of Kiteboards to sail in high winds - much further up the wind range than the other Olympic classes, would effectively mean that if course boats could get to the race area, there would be virtually no need to ever cancel Olympic sailing in two Events because of high winds. That would ease some of the TV production issues surrounding sailing - relating to the fact that the sport can currently be called off because of too little wind, or too much - playing merry hell with live TV coverage schedules.

The Yachting New Zealand submission calls for the ISAF to introduce Kiteboarding in just 10 months time at the 2011 ISAF World Championships in Perth. If successful the sport could continue as a World Cup tour event (not controlled by the IOC) in the 2012-2016 Olympic cycle, being a demonstration sport for the 2016 Olympics and then a full Olympic medal sport in 2020.

The full Yachting New Zealand statement reads:

In May this year the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) Council will decide the Olympic Events slate for sailing at the 2016 Olympic Games, and will consider submissions received last week on their November proposed slate before making the final decision.

Yachting New Zealand’s Board of Directors made a submission concerned that the ISAF proposed events slate didn’t adequately address issues raised by the Olympic Commission Report. Yachting New Zealand (YNZ) proposed an alternative slate and an announcement around this can be viewed here including a link to the YNZ submission in full.

The ISAF proposed slate pits two of the sport’s board disciplines – wind surfing and kite boarding - against each other in the battle for inclusion which means it’s one or the other.

YNZ believes that both events have a place in modern Olympic sailing and that introducing kite-boarding without eliminating wind-surfing would build the appeal of the sport for media and spectators – a key concern of the Olympic Commission Report. YNZ proposed in its submission that ISAF should promote kite-boarding to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a new sailing event for 2020 and that the sport be introduced to Olympic class events as early as late 2011.

YNZ suggested that a Men’s and Women’s kite-boarding should be included at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships in December in Perth to demonstrate the suitability for inclusion into the Olympic slate.

YNZ proposed that ISAF also approach the IOC to request that Men’s and Women’s kite board events be included as a demonstration sport at the 2016 Olympic Games with the aim of achieving Men’s and Women’s kite-board events as full medal events in the 2020 Olympic Games.

For Video from the Kiteboards in Luderitz!click_here

For the May 2010 Olympic Commission Report!click_here

For the November 2010 Supplementary Report on the May 2010 Olympic Commission Report!click_here

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