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Olympics 2024: Italian President erupts over Mixed Offshore Keelboat

by Michele Tognozzi 9 Nov 14:36 PST 10 November 2018
Two young Slovenian Finn sailors who at 17yrs and 22 yrs are part of a group of 40plus young sailors disappointed with World Sailing actions © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

Italian sailing website Farevela.net published an interview with the President of the Italian sailing federation Federazione Italiana Vela (FIV) soon after his return from last weekend's Annual Conference of World Sailing, where the decision was taken to effectively drop the Finn class from the 2024 Olympic sailing regatta in Marseille. The interview has been online for several days, but now an English text version of the interview is available.

Francesco Ettorre is furious, and also definitely perplexed, when he talked to Fare Vela after returning from the Annual Conference of World Sailing in Sarasota. The choice to introduce a mixed gender offshore keel boat instead of the Finn, and even more the ever more clear separation between World Sailing’s Board, of what used to be the world federation of sailing, and the real base of sailors are at the center of our conversation. Is the future of sailing at risk? Well, the president of the Italian Sailing Federation is worried…

“The 43/17 vote against the Finn and in favor of Offshore Keelboat Mixed”, emphasizes Ettorre, “is explained by the power of France, as Organizing Committee of Paris 2024, the change of the United States, with Gary Jobson engaged in a disproportionate endorsement in favor of the keelboat, the last announcement by Great Britain and many votes collected from small MNA.”

The FIV voted against the keelboat and for a transparent and strategic vision of the management of World Sailing. “The issue is not just Finn, yes, or Finn, no, but the current Board only pursues commercial objectives, and does not take into account the reality of the sport, the growth paths, the daily practice of the clubs,” says Ettorre.

To think badly is a sin but often you can guess… it is very likely that Mixed Offshore Keelboat is destined to become the most resounding own goal in the history of Olympic sailing. “We were baffled by the vagueness of the project”, Francesco Ettorre urges, “it has not been clarified which boat, how it will be selected, and by what means the Olympic campaign would be tackled. Jobson (one of WS’s vice-presidents, Ed.) has vaguely said that national fleets can be used on site … Well, anyone who knows about sailing will agree that in terms of management, scope, credibility and above all, accessibility for many countries, it appears absurd.”

So, will this be a medal for rich people only? “Let’s imagine a sixty-year-old wealthy, and not very fit, man, who takes an Olympic girl and puts her at the helm and “buys” the Olympic ticket, buying and tuning the keelboat. At a media level it would be disastrous for sailing. Totally different from the image given by the powerful athletes with sculpted muscles of the Finn. The Board of World Sailing wants to sell this as a renewal, when in reality it is an affront to the Olympic tradition, where talent, merit and commitment are the only way to get to the Olympics.”

“Mind you, we would not be opposed to a keelboat, but to vote for it, without knowing anything about the hull or the size, it seems like a senseless leap into the dark, made by those who do not take into account the reality of our sport but only follow commercial logic”: Ettorre is a river in flow and does not hesitate to list likely agreements already in progress with sponsors such as Volvo or others with shipyards to manage this event.

“Ng Ser Miang, IOC vice president and former ISAF executive, has been and is very critical of such choices. It is likely that, unless there is very strong pressure from Paris 2024, the keelboat can be blocked, especially for the issue of the accessibility of many countries and management costs, with boats that will cost about 90,000 euros. It is an event tailored for the French and within the reach of only a dozen countries, no more, which at IOC level will have some impact. Besides us, we know for sure that Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, Germany and Russia voted against but, I repeat, many MNA votes were decisive, countries that were never before seen at the Meeting. It is surreal that countries that can never afford a keelboat have voted yes”. “There is no logic in what they are doing, except the commercial one”.

And finally: “We are impressed by the fact that in WS Governance there is a total absence of sporting design, and knowledge of the real sporting dynamics that regulate our sport, the awareness of the growth paths. It is only and solely business. Beyond the boats, this governance is the real problem.”

And now? The dangerous road taken by World Sailing can only be saved by the sailors themselves, but will they have the power to do it?

For the full interview by Farevela's Michele Tognozzi

Click here and then scroll down to see the full English translation

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