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World Sailing Board makes 11th hour move on Olympic Events

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 28 Oct 2018 04:18 PDT 29 October 2018
The NZL crew (Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox) contest the lead in the 470 at the 2012 Olympics © Richard Gladwell

In a desperate move on the eve of the Annual Conference of World Sailing in Sarasota, USA, the Board of World Sailing have lodged two late submissions which look set to add more confusion to an already fraught Olympic class and event selection process.

Five months after producing a controversial slate of events for the 2024 Olympic Sailing Regatta, the Board has decided that one of the events is unworkable - a realisation that would come as no surprise to most of the sailing world, leaving many to wonder why it took so long for the governing body of World Sailing to fall into step.

The Board has dusted off an old proposal to introduce a two-person keelboat class to replace the daft Mixed One Person Dinghy event.

The latter proposed that men and women race separately in two different singlehanders and have their scores added together to determine the outcome of a "Mixed One Person Dinghy" event - which is not sailed elsewhere in the sport.

The latest proposal to add a 6-10metre non-foiling keelboat event to be sailed with a mixed crew is long on optimism but short on the reality of running such an event.

Claiming substantial fan interest because of the popularity of the Vendee Globe and Volvo Ocean Race, the Board ignore the fact that those two events are around the world events sailed in 60-65ft yachts that spend a substantial portion of the race in the Southern Ocean and other hard offshore legs with very compelling images and video.

The round the world boats are also capable of sustained speeds in excess of 20-25kts and higher, something not possible in a two-person 10-metre non-foiling crewed boat sailed with a spinnaker.

The paper is silent on the practicalities of running the event to Olympic Regatta standards including prevention of cheating during overnight racing, preventing well-funded sailing programs having access to the Olympic boats or surrogates before the regatta, and whether course stretching or shortening will be used to ensure a daytime finish.

The paper also talks about getting the fleet sponsored (in a boat yet to be selected) and seems to ignore the fact that visible sponsorship outside the International Olympic Committee's own program is not permitted.

The Board also seems to have forgotten a 20,000 signature petition gathered in just over a week, back in April, after a report was put forward by the Events Committee of World Sailing. The petition called for a stop to the process of wholesale change to the current Olympic class and event line up - largely because of its adverse effect on the sport.

The Council of World Sailing rejected the report of the Events Committee but instead agreed to a Submission that created a scenario where seven of the 10 Olympic classes were set for review - either because they were caught up in an anti-trust review initiated separately by the Council and Board of World Sailing. The remaining classes were caught up in the dragnet created by changing events, which in another policy approved by Council required all new Olympic events to have Equipment trials to select the class.

A second late proposal by the Board proposes that the rate of change of the classes and events be slowed.

Its only real change is to leave the RS:X as the equipment for the Windsurfing Event for Men and Women. In making this recommendation, the RS:X still gets caught in the Anti-Trust net as the Board which has been used four Olympics was separately voted for review by Council.

Not mentioned on the Board's slate is the classic Olympic class, the singlehanded Finn dinghy which has been the boat of choice for many of the great sailors in the sport. They have including sailing legends Paul Elvstrom and Ben Ainslie who between them won four Olympic Gold medals, along with five times America's Cup winner, Russell Coutts who won the Gold medal in the Finn in the 1984 Olympics at the age of 23yrs.

The Finn is spurned for reasons of compliance with a discredited Gender Equity policy adopted by World Sailing which was above a standard acceptable to the International Olympic Committee for its Agenda2020 requirements, which required all sports with some exceptions to have equal participation and events for both genders. Director of Sport for the IOC Kit McConnell stated in a June 2017 that Sailing was one of the Sports which complied with Agenda2020. A separate document Agenda2024 claimed to be IOC policy, doesn't exist.

Remaining on the Board's new slate is the new Mixed Kiteboarding event which sets out various options for the format, but ignores the fact that female representation is very low, with only 11 women from nine countries competed in the Women's event in the 2017 combined Class World Championships in Aarhus. That fleet was open entry as was the male event which attracted 67 entries. Other classes such as the Finn which had restricted entry drew fleets of 90 competitors.

Curiously the Board have opted to withdraw the Mixed One Person Dinghy event citing a lack of confidence with the viability of the format, yet have left the controversial Kiteboard event on their slate despite having a similar format to the aborted Mixed One Person Dinghy event.

The Board has attempted to reduce the turnover of classes by setting out the parameters for a Mixed Two Person Dinghy which appear to be a close fit with the 470 - but even so, Evaluation Trials must be held, and the current Male and Female Two Person Dinghy event using the 470 is popular in Asian and developing nations.

The new Proposal still requires Anti-Trust Review or Evaluation Trials for seven of the ten current Olympic classes.

It requires a 75% vote in the Council to re-open the procedure for it to pass.

For the full submission on the altered Events list Olympic Sailing Competition Olympic Events Equipment

For the full submission Olympic Sailing Competition Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore

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