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A weekend of change and opportunity for the sport of sailing

by Mark Jardine 5 Nov 02:30 PST 5 November 2018
Spectacular Finn racing on day 4 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition © Robert Deaves

This weekend saw the conclusion of the World Sailing meetings, with the AGM voting to add a 'Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore' event for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The event which made way for this was the 'Mixed One-Person Dinghy' which was decided on at the Mid-Year meeting in London, which would have been a Finn for the men and A.N.Other dinghy for the women, with a scoring system which was yet to be dreamed up.

There has of course been a huge reaction to this on social media, with uproar from the Finn sailors, and many others questioning the decision, and the process used by World Sailing's Council and Executive, to arrive at this conclusion.

The heritage of the Finn cannot be questioned, with it being present at every summer Olympics since 1952 and many of the greats of the sport coming through its ranks, such as Paul Elvstrøm, Russell Coutts and Ben Ainslie to name but three, but sailing does need to demonstrate diversity and gender equality to continue being part of the Olympic Games.

I find World Sailing's structure and decision-making process baffling in the extreme and have never been a fan of the politics of the sport, but I believe sailing's great strength is its diversity, and the slate for the Paris 2024 Olympics is now representative of this. To attract new people into the sport we need young sailors to be able to identify with areas which appeal to them, and now we'll have the combination of dinghy sailing, skiff sailing, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, foiling and offshore yacht sailing for the first time. The World Sailing process may be deeply flawed, but I'm a fan of the end result. I know many won't agree with my conclusion, but everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

The equipment re-evaluation for men's and women's one-person dinghy is another matter which is yet to be resolved. We'll see how that one pans out...

When it comes to offshore sailing, Sunday saw the start of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe. If any one event shows the strength of short-handed offshore sailing this is it. 123 sailors set sail in a multitude of classes, including the incredible foiling Ultime trimarans which are sure to smash the record for this race, as long as they can keep it all together.

Then of course there is the latest in IMOCA designs, the fully-foiling Charal, which sets a new bar for this class. The bulk of participation is in the Class 40s, which is as close to 'budget' transatlantic box-rule sailing as we've got at the moment with some superb skippers taking part. Following this race is going to be epic.

This Wednesday (7pm GMT) sees the second Live Participation Webinar from the RYA - this time talking about Pay on Demand boating - which I'm delighted to be involved in. If you get the chance then please join us, but remember you can watch the full event anytime afterwards if you can't make it.

Remember to get out on the water whenever you can. Sailing is a great sport and it would be sad for us not to enjoy it the full!

Mark Jardine
Managing Editor, Sail-World.com and YachtsandYachting.com

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