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09 Dec 2013
Sail-World New Zealand: December 9, 2013 - World Cup wrap
Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand newsletter for December 9, 2013
We arrived back from Melbourne early this morning, after having spent just over a week at the ISAF Sailing World Cup event.
There was not a big New Zealand contingent at the event.
We did have a discussion with Yachting NZ CEO, David Abercrombie a couple of days before the regatta, as to why Kiwis were a little thin on the ground at the Sandringham Yacht Club - venue for the event.
His comments are a little understandable, but it is not really a Yachting NZ issue - it is a personal one of whether Kiwi sailors think the regatta is worth going to, and whether it has any value.
The fact of the matter is that it is the closest World Cup regatta to New Zealand, there were 24 countries competing - and is much lower cost than an expedition to Europe.
If Kiwi sailors were going to Melbourne - either for the World Cup or the Sail Melbourne regatta itself, and wiping the floor with the Australians and rest of the world - then fine, stay away. But that is not the case - in fact a long way from it.
Of course, there has always been this rather cute game played out on the major regattas outside Europe, where significant numbers of sailors refuse to support other country's regattas on the basis that it weakens the status of their home regattas, and when ISAF comes to allocate World Cup regattas - you are really cutting your own lunch.
The corollary of course is that Australians are equally poor travelers to this part of the world, and of course with neither country supporting the other's events, both are the poorer.
The new World Cup format will rectify this situation to some extent, as the World Championship in an Olympic class will be the overall Tour winner. Off that should be determined the funding - and skipping a tour event will be like skipping a race in a world championship. You have to be exceptionally good to be able to get away with it in your season points score.
That system will click in around 2015. It would seem unlikely that New Zealand will get a World Cup event. Melbourne may well do so - and have positioned themselves very well for it. Our pick is for China to get the other, USA should get one, and then one will go to Europe.
The Tour will be restricted to 25 competitors per class, who will be carded. That number may increase slightly, but tour places will be highly sought - and attendance will effectively be compulsory. That gives total competitor numbers of 375, just short of the 380 allowed for the Olympics - and will be a much higher quality fleet than the Olympics, as there is not the requirement for one competitor per nation. These will be the top 25 sailors in their event in the world, plus some wild cards.
Many will rail against this circuit, wanting their comfort zone, of being able to pick and chose regattas, focus on world championships etc - and that is fine, but it doesn't work for the sport of sailing in competition with other sports on the world stage.
What will be required will be a series of second division events - for the developing sailors looking for a tour card the next year, and those who can't afford the time or money to be able to compete at the premier level. In some ways it will also make the National Authority's sailor funding issues simpler - as those with tour cards will obviously get the highest level of funding - and those without a somewhat lesser amount.
The other standout from Melbourne was the rise of the Chinese/Team China in the sailing world. In the Windsurfer classes they took all the medals - on both Mens and Womens RS:X. And yes there were European competitors sailing - but weren't up to the Chinese level.
Some will be quick to point out that the fleets were soft, but Team China's approach, as much as the result, is the telling point.
The Chinese are coming a from a long way behind the so-called developed sailing countries. But by picking their classes, getting top European coaches, and with their system of selecting competitors, plus their financial resources - the Chinese will be a formidable world sailing force at Olympic level. They have mastered many other European sports - sailing is on their list.
They will do this by picking their targets - notably the two Windsurfing classes, the two 470 classes and the Laser and Laser Radial. The have the biggest racing fleet of RS:X boards in the world - and once you have the participation it is just a matter of lifting the standard. Certainly the Chinese practice of identifying good sports people early in their lives and then training them is questionable to some - but it does work in the Chinese context and culture.
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