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World Sailing's efforts to ensure the sanctity of One Design racing

by David Schmidt 30 Jul 2019 09:00 PDT July 30, 2019
2019 Laser Radial World Championships © Junichi Hirai / Bulkhead Magazine Japan

If you've ever raced in handicap fleets, you're likely well aware of the critical role that ratings can play, both in terms of the race's outcome and in terms of sailing's long-term retention rates. Because of the inherent difficulties in racing one thirty-something-footer against another forty-something-footer, many die-hard sailors seeking racecourse purity turn to One Design racing. After all, a given class of One Design boats are all identical, so any on-the-water differences must boil down to strategy, tactics, training and fitness, right?

In theory, this is correct, but what if the boats and equipment are not all the same or are somehow not class legal? Such has been the case in the Laser class for some time, and this sad reality is threatening the future of the world's most popular sailboat.

While this is an obvious worry on any level of One Design racing, the stakes increase exponentially when it comes to Olympic level sailing and the accompanying Olympic-sized levels of competition, commitment and stress.

As a result, World Sailing announced late last week that the organization is in the process of implementing a new quality control and quality assurance plan as part of their bigger-picture process of finalizing the equipment that will be used at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

"Based upon feedback from Sailors, Coaches and Member National Authorities (MNAs) it has become clear that one-design equipment is not always being delivered to an absolutely consistent standard, when one-design is meant to ensure that the equipment is identical," writes World Sailing in their official press release announcing the new QA/QC plan.

"Sailors are having to purchase and test multiple components to ensure that they are sailing what they believe to be the best performing boat," continues World Sailing. "This leads to increased Olympic campaign costs for Olympic Sailors. MNAs first raised this at the 2016 Annual Conference and at subsequent meetings, as a result World Sailing are committed to addressing this issue to reduce costs and to protect the integrity of the sport for all stakeholders."

To deal with the situation, World Sailing will start charging a new manufacturer's fee that will be used to fund an independent QA/QC process that will help ensure the purity of Olympic-level competition and One Design racing in Olympic-class boats. Additionally, World Sailing claims that the new process will also help further advance technological improvements within each class.

To fund the new QA/QC process, manufacturers will be charged a fee of up to 1% of the boat's retail price. Critically, each class will only fund their own testing. The actual costs of the new program will be transparently tallied after the first year and any remaining monies will be returned to the builders; future fees will also be recalculated, on a class-by-class basis, after the first year to ensure that the correct amount is being collected.

While this is new QA/QC program should help to further level what was already supposed to be a horizontal playing field, cost-conscious competitors are reminded that this new manufacturer's fee is entirely separate from the plaque fees (ballpark 0.2% of the boat's retail price) that World Sailing charges.

It will be interesting to see how these new fees impact global One Design sailing, both in terms of ensuring fair and high-quality racing, and in terms of racecourse participation. While no-one likes shouldering additional costs or watching the cost of racing increase, one could make the solid argument that it's far more expensive for the sport — as measured in participation numbers — if sailors lose faith in the sanctity of One Design racing.

Speaking of high-level One Design racing, the 2019 ILCA Laser Radial World Championships just concluded on the waters of Japan's Miho Bay. On the Men's side, Simon de Gendt (BEL) captured the top step of the awards podium, followed by Zac West (AUS) and Guilherme Perez (BRA), while Anne-Marie Rindom (DEN) took home the top prize in the Women's side, followed by Marit Bouwmeester (NED) and Alison Young (GBR).

While no Canadian- or U.S.-flagged male sailors were racing in the Laser Radial World Championships, Charlotte Rose (USA) finished in eighth place on the Women's side, followed by Paige Railey (USA) in 12th place, Erika Reineke (USA) in 21st place, Sarah Douglas (CAN) in 31st place, and Clara Gravely (CAN) in 56th place.

"It's great to see Charlotte so competitive among the world's best sailors," said US Sailing's Olympic Development Director, Leandro Spina, in an official press release. "Her success is a testament to the years of hard work she's put in that the Olympic Development Program has been pleased to support with coaching resources and opportunities to train alongside world-class athletes like Paige [Railey] and Erika [Reineke]."

Meanwhile, in offshore-sailing news, the awards have now all been determined and the prizes awarded at the 50th anniversary Transpac Race, which recently concluded racing on the waters off of O'ahu, and the 2019 edition of the world-famous Fastnet Race is set to unfurl on Saturday, August 3.

Sail-World wishes safe, fast, and fun passages to all Fastnet crews, and we have a candle lit that World Sailing's new manufacturer fee properly ensures decades of unquestionably level One Design racing for sailors of all One Design insignias.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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