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Paris2024: Finn sailors fire salvo at World Sailing

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 16 May 19:13 PDT 17 May 2019
The brutal Finn class demands big strong sailors European Finn Championships, May 2019 - Athens International Sailing Centre © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

In an open letter to World Sailing, but indeed all of the sailors of the world, under the banner of the "Future of Sailing", the competitors at the 2019 European Championships being staged in Athens have called for the class to be re-instated in the Paris Olympic Sailing Regatta.

The letter has been sent on the eve of the Mid Year Meeting for the world controlling body for sailing. The meeting runs for three days and is being held at the Chelsea Football Club in London.

Their plea is also made on behalf of males above 85kg, who now have no class to sail in the Olympic Regatta.

The letter follows an impassioned speech at the Opening Ceremony for the European Championship calling for the reinstatement of the class, for World Sailing to pull back from practising discrimination against males of above average weight and size. The scripted presentation mentioned action that may be taken by the class, including a complaint to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the basis of physical discrimination.

An Extract from the 2024 Events & Equipment Working Party Report, presented at the 2018 Mid Year Meeting of World Sailing in London admitted that males above 90kgs would effectively be excluded from the Olympics after 2020 in Tokyo. The average weight of Finn sailors at the 2018 Worlds in Aarhus, Denmark was 96.7kgs.

...The WP recognises that there may be some athletes at the extreme ends of the size range for the current Olympic events that could find they do not have a suitable option for 2024. This issue is particularly acute for men over 90kgs.

The full report can be downloaded by clicking here

A survey of sailors' physiques taken at Aarhus, Denmark during the 2018 combined Olympic Class Worlds shows that outside of the Finn, only two competitors in the survey weighed more than 85kgs.

It is plain that the physical data for the Finn sailors group is well outside that of the other classes. The usual progression into the Finn is from Laser as sailors struggle to hold their weight in the Laser, or decide to bulk up for the Finn.

The Nacra 17 is more complex with the Male and Female crews sailing in different roles. In the sample there were 20 male helms and only 8 male crews. In the distribution of male crew weights there was only one crew at 90kg. Not shown or recorded is the combined weight of a crew eg a light female helm would probably team up with a heavier male crew, and vice versa. Overall it would be expected that the righting moments of the combined crews would be similar. There is no relation between the sailor's physical attributes and their finishing place or ranking, however as this was not an open entry regatta it should be assumed that the physiques of the sailors are competitive ie they are sailing the correct boat for their physical attributes.

As a point of comparison the maximum weight for a lightweight male rower at the Olympics is 72.5kg and the height of lightweight rower is 1.80m. The average weight of a US male is 89kg and height 1.75m. The averages weights and heights of males in UK, Europe and Scandinavian countries is similar. The average weight for a crew member on an America's Cup AC75 is 90kg. Running the population averages against the sailing averages, outside the Finn group Olympic sailors are lighter and taller than the average. (NB the population averages are probably from a sample of the general population rather than a group aged 20-35yrs which would cover most of the sailors at Aarhus.)

Writing from the Open Letter reads:

To whom it may concern,

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the removal of the Finn class from the 2024 Olympic Games by World Sailing and to request the reinstatement of a class suited to male athletes over 85 kilograms.

While we understand that the main reason behind this decision was to give preference to mixed event categories, removing the Finn class eliminates a massive Olympic sailing group which includes every single male athlete over 85 kilograms. Historically, athletes of this category have significantly contributed to the sport and this category’s popularity continues today. At the recent Aarhus Sailing World Championships in Denmark, 42 nations gathered and participated with athletes in the Finn class, making the Finn the third largest class at the competition.

Not only is the Finn class’s popularity undeniable and the removal of this class a detriment to the Olympic Games, but it also discriminates against many sailors. Despite the initial working party and the World Sailing Events Committee Chairman’s expressed respect for World Sailing’s Regulation 23 and the ‘all physique’s’ policy 70/17, the category of men over 85 kilograms has been discriminated against and effectively barred from competition due to the equipment specifications. For further evidence of this detrimental phenomenon, please see page 17 of the attached document, which illustrates that all male sailors fall into the 70-85 kilogram bracket.

The removal of the Finn class from the Olympic Games breaches World Sailing rules and policies and disregards the principles of the Olympic Charter with respect to non-discrimination of physiques, and limits access to many sailors. Therefore, we urge you to reinstate a class, like the Finn, suited to male athletes over 85 kilograms in order to guarantee the fair access to all sailors and in order to avoid the implementation of discriminatory decision from World Sailing.

In the hope that a correction will be provided without the need for further action, we remain at your disposal for a constructive dialogue on this matter at the address shown in the header of this letter.


The proceedings of World Sailing are being broadcast live on Youtube

For all the links to the live coverage of sessions and agendas click here

Many thanks to Daniel Smith of World Sailing for putting this comprehensive information together.

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