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Hard decisions for World Sailing Mid Year Meeting

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World/com/nz 9 May 2019 23:39 PDT 10 May 2019
The dropping of the Laser will trigger a re-think of the boats used at Youth level © Richard Gladwell

The Mid-Year Meeting of World Sailing is set to take place at the end of next week in the Chelsea Football Club, London.

It is the third phase of a process that began 12 months ago at the same Meeting in the same venue. The Meeting will take place against a backdrop of controversy over the Olympic classes and events for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, with many sailors being unsupportive of World Sailing's actions.

Most of the content for the Meeting comes from recommendations by the World Sailing Board and Committees, rather than Submissions from MNA's who provided most of the content for the Annual Conference in November at Sarasota, USA. Only Urgent submissions can be considered at the Mid-Year meeting. This year there are just three of which only one is 2024 Olympic related and was put to the Council by the Board of World sailing.

Class by Class and Event by Event the situation looks something like this:

Men's and Women's One Person Dinghy.

This is the Event which has been sailed in what was known as the Laser class, now the "Ilca", since the 1996 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Savannah. It is the most numerous sailing class in the world with over 215,000 being built since its launch as "The Weekender" in the early 1970s.

The class was one of four signalled for a review, as part of an anti-trust compliance process emanating from the European Union. Most of the 120 member national authority's countries who are not members of the 28 strong EU have similar consumer, anti-trust or anti-monopoly laws which are enforced to varying degrees in a sporting context.

The Laser/Ilca had 85 nations participate in Olympic Qualification trials leading to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. It is easily the biggest contributor to the "Universality" measure used by the International Olympic Committee to compare the relative popularity of the sports which make up the Summer Olympics. In the chart below from the 2016 Olympic Regatta, World Sailing could be set to remove three of the top four contributors to its Universality score.

World Sailing decided to conduct an Evaluation Trial involving four of the eight classes which had indicated that they wished to be considered for the 2024 Olympic One Person Dinghy slot. After a four-day trial was conducted in Valencia, Spain the committee overseeing the trial produced a recommendation that the RS Aero (80pts) was the highest ranked of the four classes, with the Laser/Ilca (69pts) in second, followed by the Devoti D-Zero (54pts) and Melges 14 (52pts). The Evaluation involved measuring several factors and then applying a weighting against each factor to produce a total score.

The usual criticism of this approach is to dispute the weightings - which is always a highly subjective call. Also, it is heavily reliant on the expertise of the team of sailors used to test the boats, and whether they have the required experience to be able to make accurate judgements on quite technical issues. Again there is a lot of subjective comment from what was called the MNA team. The two members of the Evaluation Panel with the most dinghy sailing experience (both were multiple Olympic medalists) were not present in Valencia, and could not "eyeball" the trial and pick up nuances and accuracy of feedback from the MNA sailing team.

It was odd that the D-Zero, which was reportedly the fastest at the trial, and was also the cheapest was pushed so far down when the subjective weightings were applied. Further the D-Zero seemed to be penalised for its mast chocking system, which is really quite common on boats of this type, and is an excellent way of allowing sailors of different sizes and weights to customise their boat a little - allowing a greater weight range of sailors to compete. Tolerance of a greater range of bodyweights for both genders is one of the burning issues of the 2024 Olympic class selection.

The D-Zero also seemed to be marked down for its building/measurement/licence system which was modelled on the Finn and 470 - the only two of the existing Olympic classes classes which are FRAND compliant, within the common understanding of the term.

The relatively low scoring of the D-Zero points to the weightings being at best very subjective and at worst, incorrect.

One member of the sailing team, Pavlos Kostides (CYP) an Olympic Silver medalist in the then-Laser class, and is also the 2017 and 2018 World Champion in the class. His sailing ability was many notches above others in the sailing team, and not surprisingly he is said to have won every race in which he sailed regardless of the class. A couple of others were at the heavier end of the weight scale and had some experience in the Finn class. Otherwise, the boat with which most were familiar was the then-Laser.

A detailed assessment of the report can be read by clicking here. The report itself can be read clicking here

Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat

At the November Annual Conference, the Mixed One Person Dinghy event which had been approved at the 2018 Mid Year Meeting was deemed to be unworkable by the Board.

The Board submitted a "Late and Urgent" submission on the first day of the Annual Conference, and with a swift and well-organised assassination managed to get the Mixed One Person Dinghy event replaced with a Mixed Two Person Offshore Keelboat event.

The Offshore Keelboat group managed to obtain the necessary 75% threshold in a contentious vote - the accuracy of which is still the subject of a review process by aggrieved parties. Further action is believed to be imminent by parties angered at the apparent exclusion from the Olympics of males weighing more than 83kgs.

The urgent Submission lodged by the Board sets out a process for selecting the Offshore Keelboat, using a list of classes of which few are sailed in the Southern hemisphere. To see the full report click here. The Council is asked to endorse the recommendation which alters World Sailing's regulations and approve the "Long List" at its November 2019 Meeting.

A much more extensive Working Paper has been approved by the Board of World Sailing and circulated to some Committees. It includes a list of classes that MNA's could use for training and qualification. The proposal in the Board Submission is that one of these classes should be chosen in late 2023 to prevent what the Submission calls an "arms race". None of the suggested classes are sailed in New Zealand and few, if any in the Southern hemisphere. It also suggests that several classic offshore races such as the Sydney Hobart, Fastnet and Middle Sea could be used by sailors wishing to gain the necessary experience to compete in the Olympic Offshore event. It is not known if the authors of the report have tried sailing two-handed in a Sydney Hobart on a 27-30ft production boat.

The paper also quotes viewership for the last Volvo Ocean Race, implying that the three nights/two-day race would be able to achieve a high viewership. There is no mention of On Board Reporters, who generate much of the Volvo content, being used on the Olympic boats.

The paper admits that the weather conditions will be typically light in Marseille during the period of the Olympic Regatta, but hopes this will not be the case.

There is no mention of costs of an Olympic campaign in the offshore keelboat, with the counter being that the Olympic fleet will be supplied free of charge. List price of some of the boats mentioned in the "Long List" is in excess of €200,000. The cheaper boats like Figaro II have ceased production. Coaching programs are being offered at €850,000 per year.

To read the full report on the Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore proposals and options by clicking here.

Many thanks to Jean-Pierre Kiekens and Tom Ehman for posting these reports and documents.


The incumbent equipment, the RS:X board with different sized rigs for Men and Women, has been used since the 2008 Olympics, and like the Laser was slated for review to ensure anti-trust compliance.

In a paper published two days ago, World Sailing has advised that it has obtained a "commitment from Neil Pryde to allow other manufacturers to access the market under the terms of World Sailing's Olympic Equipment Policy".

The Board are asking the Council to sign off on the recommendation.

That approval would stop the aspirations of the other four options from the tender process which included Neil Pryde and the RS:X, the Glide 2990 designed by Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Kendall; the Windsurfer, and two Windfoilers.

Mixed Two person Dinghy

One of the Events approved at the November 2018 Annual Conference was the Mixed Two Person Dinghy, which effectively replaced two events - the Mens and Womens Two Person Dinghy which was is in the 470 class.

The Mixed Two Person Dinghy is a new event in the Olympic Regatta and is not currently a world championship event. Under World Sailing's regulations tenders had to be called for the new "Equipment" or class. A specification was drafted which to many eyes looked to be geared to the 470. Only two tenders were received - from Melges Boat Works for the Melges 15" and the 470.

The Melges 15 is what World Sailing terms a "concept boat" meaning that it is not in production and is not a current class - and is not even listed on the company's website.

For reasons that are not explained, but obvious, Melges withdrew their bid, leaving the 470 as the sole tenderer.

The 470 is FRAND compliant - given that it is controlled and licenced by a class association rather than a commercial entity, and will pass the anti-trust requirements.

It is not clear what will happen with the 470 class past 2020, whether their World Championship will be only for the Mixed Olympic event, or whether they will run with Mens, Womens and Mixed World Championships.

Mixed Kite

As a new Event which will be sailed as a relay event, again not currently a world championship, a tender process was opened by World Sailing. Tenders were received from the International Kiteboarding Association using Formula Kite Class equipment, Fly 4 and Ozone Kites.

The Fly 4 withdrew leaving just the IKA and Ozone. After Phase 1 of the Evaluation - a consideration of the tender documents - World Sailing elected to only proceed with the IKA offering and visited the just concluded 2019 IKA World Championships.

The detailed Evaluation can be viewed by clicking here

The price of a set of equipment for one rider the proposed Olympic Event is €12,000 so with two riders in the Mixed relay total capital cost is €24,000.

Other Olympic classes

The remaining three Olympic events - the Mens and Womens Skiff and Mixed Multihull will be reviewed ahead of the 2024/28 Olympic cycle, on the assumption that they remain as Olympic Events for Long Beach in 2028.


A review of World Sailing's Governance has been underway for 12 months, and a document will be presented at the Mid-Year Meeting for feedback.

One of the key proposals is to remove the World Sailing Council as it is currently constituted and replaced with two bodies.

One is the Olympic Council, where the Council size is reduced from 41 to 21 MNA's and its make-up is determined by one of three systems based on Olympic Regatta results and four others who are drawn from the Athletes Commission (2) an Olympic Classes representative, a Board Director and the World Sailing President.

An expanded Board will have decision making control over every aspect of World Sailing except for those made by MNA's at General Meetings or are reserved for the Olympic Council or independent bodies such as the Disciplinary Tribunal.

Composition rules dictate the geographic and gender representation on the Board. Five of the Board will be elected (seven at present).

A Nominations Panel will be established which will appoint four Board directors, all members of Commissions and Sub Commissions, the Election Panel, the Investigations Panel and the Disciplinary Tribunal.

The full discussion document can be read by clicking here

The intention is for a new Constitution for World Sailing to be drafted and passed as a single document at the 2019 Annual Conference, in November.

A rather pointed comment is made on P37 of the Proposal to reform the Governance of World Sailing concerning conflict of interest within the World body: "Additional resources will be given to educating and training those involved in World Sailing on the management of conflicts of interest. While the rules and policies are clear, it is apparent they are not being complied with nor enforced. This is currently compromising the quality and integrity of some decisions."

Presidential Election in 2020

There will be a Presidential Election at the 2020 Annual Conference/Annual General Meeting in Dubai, UAE, after Gerardo Seeliger (ESP) who has wide experience in sailing and business administration, including the 29er, 49er and Finn classes declared his intention to stand against the incumbent President, Kim Andersen (DEN) at the end of his first four year term.

Seeliger is a former Olympic representative in the Finn class (1972) and was Chairman of the Spanish America's Cup team in 1992 before moving on to be Chairman of the Challenger of Record Committee in the 1995 America's Cup.

He has also undertaken Governance work for the International Olympic Committee.

Seeliger is the founder of Seeliger y Conde one of Spain's largest executive recruiting firms as well as holding an Associate Professorship at the IE Business School.

For an interview by Tom Ehman of with Gerardo Seeliger click here


The elephant in the room is, of course, the ongoing situation with the Laser class. The Council will struggle to reach a satisfactory solution with a class which they cannot afford to lose from the Olympic Regatta.

At the same time, the class is split after the International Laser Class Association terminated the building licence with its European builder Laser Performance. LP built 75% of the world Laser production and holds the Trade Mark rights for the Laser marks (name and class insignia) for 85% of the world.

The reaction of the International Laser Class Association's (ILCA) Board of Directors has been to change the name of the class to the "Ilca", in response to the trademark ownership situation.

It would be difficult for the World Sailing Council to vote for the Laser as an Olympic class in 2024 with the current legal uncertainty.

The European based Laser Associations have aligned themselves with LP, with several letters appearing in social media making their position clear.

For its part, World Sailing has issued a statement saying that they have not had an active role in the dispute, and at the time of making the statement "has received no class rule changes related to the name of the boat."

World Sailing also said that it "is concerned that recent public statements overstate conversations with World sailing officials."

There are no "Urgent" Submissions posted to somehow address a dire situation for the class and sport.

On Friday May 10, Laser Performance posted on their Facebook page that "World Sailing has now proposed three dates for joint World Sailing -ILCA Laser inspection of our Banbury factory (May 28,29 or 30). LaserPerformance has agreed and is waiting for confirmed date. Will ILCA stand by its word to make sure Laser sailing and events are not hurt by issuing plaques after factory inspection certification?"

For more correspondence between the various parties over the Laser/Ilca contretemps click here

One day has been allowed for Council to fully discuss and reach considered decisions on all of these matters along with several other reports from specialist committees.

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