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Paris 2024: World Sailing Committee recommends RS Aero

by Richard Gladwell/ 18 May 2019 21:33 PDT 19 May 2019
RS Aero topped the Olympic Equipment Trials © RS Sailing

The Equipment Committee of World Sailing has voted to recommend the RS Aero to the body's Council for confirmation at its meeting tomorrow (Sunday).

The RS Aero was supported by nine members of the Committee, with only three supporting the Laser. The other two options, the D-Zero and Melges 15 received no votes. The voting was the same for the Mens and Womens Equipment (class).

The Laser has been an Olympic class first sailed in the 1996 Games, and numbers 215,000 boats worldwide, with 50,000 active sailors and 14,000 members of the international class association. In response to a question from a member of the Committee it was stated that the RS Aero had 1850 boats worldwide at the time of the Evaluation Trials in Valencia, Spain in mid-March, 2019. The Laser was sailed in 85 countries in the Qualification process for the 2016 Olympic Regatta, and was the largest class in terms of universality. The Laser Radial was the second largest with 69 countries participating in the Qualification Events for Rio 2016.

The price of the RS Aero is stated by the Evaluation panel to be £6041 the price of the Laser is in the range £4973 to £5516. The Panel claims the RS Aero is suitable for a Male weight range of 85-91kg and Female range 68-73kg.

During the Evaluation process the International Laser Association decided to cancel the building licence of its biggest builder Laser Performance (LP) which constructed over 70% of the annual production of Lasers, as it claimed that LP had refused factory inspections by ILCA for an extended period of time.

The Evaluation Committee recommended that both the Laser and RS Aero could be selected by the Equipment Committee rather than just selecting a single boat from the Evaluation Trial.

The recommendation from the Equipment Committee will be forwarded to the Council of World Sailing for confirmation when it meets tomorrow, Sunday on the final day of the Mid Year meeting.

Windsurfer trial sought

In a further recommendation, the Equipment Committee voted not to support the Board's recommendation to Council to retain the RS:X Windsurfer for the 2024 Olympics. After calling for tenders for the Windsurfer, the Board decided that the RS:X had fitted the specification it published previously, and bypassed the expert Equipment Committee, by making a recommendation directly to the Council.

The position of the Equipment Committee has long been that the Windsurfer Equipment should go through an evaluation process similar to that of the Laser/Laser Radial for the One Person Dinghy. The Equipment Committee voted, after lengthy discussion, "To reject the Board recommendation and recommend that the Board selects New Equipment and conduct sea trials against an updated set of criteria".

It would seem from the discussion that the Equipment Committee would like to see Windfoilers tested against displacement windsurfers.

The vote was a resounding vote to Reject by 0 votes for, 11 against and two abstentions.

More devil in the detail for Mixed Two-Person Offshore

The Equipment Committee spent a considerable period of time wordsmithing a changed Submission M01-19 from the Board of World Sailing, which altered once again the process to select the Mixed Two-Person Offshore Keelboat, for the 2024 Olympics.

"We have to approve this but it's flawed" commented Stan Honey who is both a member of the Equipment Committee. His view was that the current proposal was completely unworkable and the latest amendment was an improvement in that it is capable of further amendment.

The change stretched the date for World Sailing to publish the so-called "long list" of boats believed to be suitable for countries to use if they were wishing to enter the Mixed Two Person Offshore keelboat. Instead of being published by December 2019, it will now be done by December 2020. The proposal for the selection of the actual supplied Equipment to be used at the 2024 Olympics still remains at "no later than 31 December 2023".

The flaws raised in the course of the discussion included a preference for World Sailing just to publish a list of criteria for the "long list" and then leave sailors and Member National Authorities and regions to sort out their preferred option.

It was pointed out that December 2023 was too late for the French builder of the supplied equipment to actually produce the boats required for the new and controversial 2024 Olympic event.

Another questioned whether the boat selected for 2024 would also be used for 2028. There was the alternate view expressed that the intention of this event was not to have it centred around a boat, and that a new boat would be selected for 2028.

That then begged the question as to whether sailors/MNA's should be asked to buy a boat or two at €200,000 each for training heading into the 2024 Olympics, in the knowledge that boat would only have a life just for the 2024 Olympics, and that another boat would be used for 2028 - if the event remained in the Olympics..

In subsequent discussion three issues were aired:

1. Whether there should be a list of boats or the less prescriptive list of criteria required of the boats.

2. Whether the concept of the class is one that gets selected is long standing, like other Olympic classes. Or, if a set of criteria is published around which the organising body for an Olympic Regatta would work with local builders to produce a boat.

3. Whether the event should be highly technical where all technology should be allowed that is is permitted in other major offshore events, and the race becomes an exercise in intense analysis, as well as sailing. Or, if the event is more about Man against Nature and technology use should be highly restricted - "no data in, only data out", referring to the acceptance that there would be onboard cameras and audio running 24x7.

The Committee accepted that there was little that could be done to control cost, and that MNA's would spend as much or as little as they liked. All that could be done was to structure the class and event on the basis of diminishing returns for higher levels of expenditure.

There were differing views on the types of autopilot allowed - one based on inertia technology; or one that would just sail a compass course; or whether they should be banned all together and hand-steering or a pinned helm permitted.

Similarly with engines, whether there would be fossil fuel engines permitted, or if they would electric only - and presumably solar panel charged.

Given that the fleet will be escorted and monitored by the French Navy, whether liferafts would be required to be carried.

The last two points touched on the sufficiency aspect of offshore racing and also safety in a man overboard situation - as to whether the remaining crew member would be required to attempt to recover a crew member who was overboard, or if an America's Cup style chase boat would swoop in and return the crew-member to his/her boat and they kept racing with a set time/suspension of racing penalty.

The discussions will continue amongst a joint Working Party of the Equipment Committee and the Oceanic and Offshore Committee.

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