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Windfoil submission gets Medalists' support for 2024 Windsurfer slot

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 28 Oct 2018 20:00 PDT 29 October 2018
Windfoil showing easy flight even in light, funky breezes © Richard Gladwell

One of the more interesting submissions at the World Sailing Annual Conference is a proposal for the RS:X Windsurfer to be replaced with a foiling windsurfer, conceptually known as a Windfoil.

The proposal comes from the Netherlands, winner of the Gold Medal in the Mens Windsurfer for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and who also won the Gold and Silver at the recent World RS:X Championship in Aarhus and were the Gold medal winners in the Women's event, and are the world's leading RS:X exponents. They are arguably the ones with the most to lose if there was a change of equipment for the Windsurfer event.

Their coach, Aaron McIntosh (NZL) himself an Olympic Bronze medalist at the Sydney Olympics is also a strong advocate of the class which has brought him back into windsurfing.

At the other end of the scale, an 11-year-old is sailing in Auckland and is being mentored by the Olympians.The Dutch have gone one better with an 8yr old sailing a Windfoil.

The WindFoil concept is being embraced elsewhere in the world with regular club racing being held in New Zealand, where the Nationals are expected to pull a fleet of 35 Windfoils. The Dutch submission is supported by several similar classes to the Windfoil along with three Caribbean/South American national authorities.

Coming back into the sport are the older Olympic board sailors who had to give away the RS:X because of the physical demands and damage caused by the need to arm-pump/air-row the RS:X at displacement speeds.

Air rowing does not work on a windfoil except to lift the board initially onto the foil in light winds. The transition takes 1-2 seconds and is so quick it can only be caught on a rapid-fire camera operating at around eight frames per second.

Adoption of the Windfoil will add a foiling board to the Olympic Sailing regatta, obviating the need for a Kitefoiling board which is squeezing the Olympic Sailing Regatta - currently restricted to only ten events. Despite being mooted for the Olympics for a decade the Kiteboard has struggled to get double digit fields in the Womens Kiteboard, making a Mens and Womens or a Mixed Kiteboard impractical in practice.

The text of the Dutch submission in support of the change reads:
1. Windsurfing has reached the next stage in its evolution. Foiling. Foiling has transcended windsurfing in almost every discipline: waves, speed, racing, slalom, freestyle and free ride. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. It’s the future. And it is here right now.

2. The equipment concept outlined in this submission advances parameters which represent the very best high-performance windsurfing equipment available on the market today, for racing across the broadest range of conditions. As it stands the equipment available on the market is of high quality and ready for use at the Olympic Games.

3. The convertible board concept (i.e. an interchangeable foil and fin) allows for foiling to be used as the default sailing mode most of the time. However, if either wind, water state or sailor ability require it, the foils can be replaced with a fin, and normal course racing can be completed in the traditional sailing mode.

4. The sail sizes for men and women have been selected on the basis that racing on the same equipment can be completed in 6 to 35 knots, and on the basis that there is a World Sailing requirement or preference to keep the athlete weight range the same as it is or the RS:X.
5. A multi-manufacturer one-design class is preferable, but not essential. Production registered one-design in accordance with a tight box rule is also a possibility.

6. An exciting evolution in the sport also makes for an opportune time to bring about a format revolution too. Please see below for more details. In selecting new equipment, the youth path is also crucially important.

Variety of workable race formats

While media-friendly is a much-abused term in World Sailing circles the race formats proposed by the Dutch should be appealing to fans.

The Dutch submission explains the proposed Windsurfing Pro Evolution Racing format consists of five different racing sub-formats, continues the submission. This concept is intended to be very malleable. Not every sub-format needs be completed to constitute a regatta – but instead, the format offers options for fair, challenging and attractive racing irrespective of what the weather produces.

In ideal circumstances/conditions, the format is based around a 10-race series (which can be extended if necessary). Each sub-format carries the same weighting, with the exception of the Landmark race which is double weighted. The five racing sub-formats are: Classic; Landmark; Point to Point; Sprint; and Time Trial. They are described in detail further below.

After a testing period, the range of sub-formats can be deducted, or some may be combined. Objective guidelines should be in place for an optimal and fair selection of sub-formats at a regatta, depending on the conditions (wind, waves, etc.).

The format is pitched at fleet sizes comparable to World Cup and Olympic Games Regattas. The versatility of the format means that other regattas, ones below elite level and all the way down to club level regattas, can pick and choose the disciplines as circumstances allow (whether that be conditions, staffing or sailor ability).

Each sub-format serves its purpose and highlights a fundamental aspect of the sport. The Landmark races will promote venues, produce great media images, and are enticing and easy to understand for spectators. The Point to Point races are spectator friendly, and highlight the differing skills required for up and downwind sailing. The Sprints allow for a greater number of races to be completed in a short space of time, reward perfect execution of racing elements, and provide exciting viewing. The Time Trial component incorporates modern technology in an easy to understand yet exciting way. Finally, the Classic component anchors this whole format to a traditional racing style, ensuring that while we are pushing the development and evolution of our sport that we are also grounded in familiarity

The promoters of the new equipment have also looked at how the Windfoil can lock into Junior and Youth Sailing.

Junior Sailing

The Bic Techno is arguably the most successful junior sailing class in the world, says the Dutch Submission. This year alone over 400 junior sailors competed at the Bic Techno World Championships. The Techno caters for and is accessible to junior sailors as young as 8 years old, and allows them to compete right up until they are 17 years old. While it is not very high performance, this is a very strong and important springboard which must remain. The equipment is affordable, durable, easy to use, and provides children with the necessary fundamental windsurfing skills which they require to progress through the ranks to Youth and beyond. Most junior sailors move off the Techno early (depending on size and ability), and graduate to the Youth Class (currently the RS:X W package) at around 14 to 15 years old.

Under this submission for new Olympic equipment, it is strongly recommended that Techno continues to be fully supported as a wonderful junior board.

The Bic Techno should be seen as comparable to the Optimist, in dinghy terms.

Youth Sailing

In the event of selecting Olympic equipment in line with the broad criteria in this submission, it important that a comparable foiling youth class is chosen as well.

Excellent foiling/convertible equipment suitable for youth sailing is already available on the market. The parameters for this equipment should be, broadly speaking: a similar board to the Olympic equipment but approximately 10 percent narrower; the sail for boys and girls should be 7.0 m2; and above all, it should be very affordable – somewhere in the range of 50 percent of the price of the Olympic Equipment.

The equipment is lower spec’ than the proposed high-performance Olympic equipment, meaning with will be safe for children to learn to race on, more affordable and more durable. The speeds will be lower, limited by slower foil designs and made from aluminium construction.

The youth class should be seen as comparable to the 29er, or 420.

For the full submission Olympic Sailing Competition Olympic Equipment

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