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Olympic Events 2024, Route du Rhum

09/11/2018


Sail-World NZ e-magazine - Nov 9, 2018 - Ch..Chh...Changes

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A beautiful rainbow - 2018 Route du Rhum - photo © Yann Eliès


Dear Recipient Name


Welcome to Sail-World.com's New Zealand e-magazine for November 9, 2018

Many in the sailing world are still stunned by the decisions made at World Sailing's Annual Conference over the weekend relating to the Event and Equipment lineup for the 2024 Olympics in Marseille.

Despite getting escaping the Events Committee with just a single vote margin, the 11th hour, Board sponsored, Mixed Two-Person Keelboat proposal broke through the 75% required threshold at both the World Sailing Council Meeting, and the Annual General Meeting two days later. The former is restricted to councillors representing regional areas, and the AGM is one country one vote.

There are a few things that have subsequently become clear.

Edmund de Rothschild - start Route du Rhum - November 2018, St Malo - photo © Eloi Stichelbaut
The foiling Ultime class Edmund de Rothschild - start Route du Rhum - she broke a bow and was forced to withdraw on the first night - photo © Eloi Stichelbaut

Firstly, the combined score Mixed One-Person Dinghy was flawed from the outset. It should never have even been allowed into the mix as it is not consistent with World Sailing's Regulations covering Event Selection which say: "World Sailing shall seek to ensure that each Event at the Olympic Sailing Competition is, and will be likely to remain, the pinnacle Event for that discipline or area of sailing."

F50 in sea trials off the Northland coast - October 2018 - photo © Beau Outteridge
F50 in sea trials off the Northland coast - October 2018 - photo © Beau Outteridge

How can you choose an Event that is not even contested at the time of its selection, let alone being the "pinnacle Event"? This is not the standard to which a World controlling body should be operating.

Secondly, even back in May 2018, World Sailing Events Committee admitted in a Working Party report that the recommendations made discriminated against slightly larger than average males: "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."

Physique Studies available to World Sailing at the time showed that the top end for all the existing classes, except the Finn, in which men could compete was realistically 83-85kgs. Finn sailors were generally in the 85-100kg range. A significant proportion of the male population is over 83kgs.

Boris Herrmann has a great start to the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in Malizia II - photo © Jean-Marie Liot
Boris Herrmann has a great start to the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in Malizia II - photo © Jean-Marie Liot

Everyone can see the vision in putting an offshore keelboat into the Olympics, but World Sailing's graveyard is littered with the tombstones of keelboat classes that have been in and out of the Sailing Olympics. Sadly they keep being killed off younger and younger, with the Tempest and Yngling lasting just two Olympic cycles, and the Elliott 6 metre lasting only one.

Against that backdrop, one would have expected World Sailing to have proceeded cautiously and done its homework.

Sadly that does not appear to have been the case, yet again.

In nominating a non-foiling keelboat 6-10metres in length, with a spinnaker, World Sailing set the target amongst a broad range of production boats - which will have to be capable of racing for an extended period offshore and in winds up to 40kts or more.

Initiatives Coeur Route de Rhum - September 2018  - photo © Vincent Curutchet
Initiatives Coeur Route de Rhum pictured in September 2018 - she was forced out of the Route du Rhum with structural failure - photo © Vincent Curutchet

One, like the Figaro 2 by Beneteau might have been OK, but manufacture ceased in 2015, and in its place, we have the foiling Beneteau 3. World Sailing don't want a foiling offshore keelboat. So that opens the field up somewhat.

The visionaries have it that the crowds in Marseille will flock to see the start and finish of an offshore race in the same numbers they do in Lorient, St Malo or Les Sables-d'Olonne. But those trans-Atlantic or around the world races usually have a very strong French presence - and where the main question is which French sailor will win? Or, who will be the next French sailing hero in a lineage started by Eric Tabarly? The much vaunted Vendee Globe has only ever been won by a French sailor. The front-runners in the Ultime class in the current Route du Rhum are all French entries.

Whether it is possible to give a 30fter the media capability of a Volvo 65 for just a 60hour race is not a mere bagatelle either. In Florida, over the weekend the media -expectations of what can be delivered from this new Olympic event have been talked sky-high.

Sodebo and IDEC Sport - Start, Route du Rhum - Gouadeloupe 2018 - photo © Alexis Courcoux
Sodebo and IDEC Sport - Start, Route du Rhum - Gouadeloupe 2018 - photo © Alexis Courcoux

While the Mixed Two-Person Offshore race is touted as the first Olympic event to be broadcast 24 hours a day, the reality is that watching yachts racing in the night on a tracker screen is not an exhilarating experience - even when it is the tail end of a Volvo OR leg finish, and the boats are ripping along at 25kts, instead of the 7-10kts of the 30fters in a good breeze.

While World Sailing have gone further than the International Olympic Committee required with Gender Equality, and have arguably expanded the Diversity of the Olympic Sailing regatta, they would appear to have traded that off against Universality, or numbers of nations competing in the Sailing Olympics.

Assuming that athlete numbers remain capped in 2024 at the Tokyo level of 350, (a drop from the 380 of Rio) then some drastic cutting of Olympic fleet sizes will be required.

Sarasota, Florida, USA is hosting the Annual Conference from 27 October to 4 November. - photo © Daniel Smith
World Sailing's Annual Conference in Sarasota, Florida, USA - photo © Daniel Smith

As well as bringing in three new Mixed crew events - the Gender Equality requirements mean that Mens and Womens fleets have to be the same size numerically, where previously the smaller women's fleets reflected the reduced numbers of women participating in sailing.

So those two factors - reduced numbers from Rio and greater event pressure because of the preference for Mixed crews, will likely see the Mens Laser fleet reduce from 46 in Rio to just 30 in Marseille.

The Women's Laser Radial fleet also drops from 37 to 30 for the same reasons. It will also be hard for World Sailing to take away regional qualification places - of which there were 12 or so in 2016 in the Mens Laser.

 - Start, Route du Rhum - Gouadeloupe 2018 - photo © Alexis Courcoux
- Start, Route du Rhum - Gouadeloupe 2018 - photo © Alexis Courcoux

That being so there are just 18 places left for Qualification through World Championships - and there were 24 nations who made the cut for Rio in the first round of Qualification at the 2014 combined class World Championships in Santander. A further nine gained Olympic qualification in the 2015 Worlds. Retaining the two-step Olympic Qualification process as few as 12 nations could gain Olympic selection in the 2022 Combined class World Championships and another six at the 2023 Class Worlds.

Quite how the selection will be made for the Mixed Offshore Keelboat is another matter again. The fleet size is likely to be 15 boats.

Between events, the numbers can be fiddled and tweaked - but an increase in one event means a reduction in another, and there are certain limits below which fleet sizes can be dropped without making a mockery of the event.

Smiling through all of this are the French. As host nation they are already granted an automatic place in each Olympic Sailing Event - so they avoid the tawdry experience of having to Qualify. In addition, in Short Handed sailing they have gained an Olympic event where they are head and shoulders above the rest of the World.

Finn fleet at Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition - photo © Robert Deaves / Finn Class
Finn fleet at Rio 2016 Olympic Sailing Competition - photo © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

Plus it will be sailed in their home waters in front of a home crowd. It is likely that a French-supplied boat from the likes of Beneteau will be used. That makes training a lot simpler. It also means that the French Selection Trials - will be a very keenly fought event - maybe even surpassing the Olympics for local interest.

The argument that would-be Finn sailors can shift across to the Mixed Offshore Keelboat doesn't really fly either.

What the Mixed Keelboat will do is bring in a new breed of Olympic sailor - and that is a tick in the Diversity box.

The skills required in the Mixed Keelboat include seamanship, navigation, short-handed offshore racing techniques, night sailing, endurance sailing and a few more besides, plus the usual sailing skills. Few of the specialist offshore skills can be coached.

Beautiful sunrise from the balcony of Fabrice Amedeo - 2018 Route du Rhum - photo © Fabrice Amedeo
Beautiful sunrise from the balcony of Fabrice Amedeo - 2018 Route du Rhum - photo © Fabrice Amedeo

With several deaths in offshore racing over the past two years, the safety aspect has to be treated very seriously.

The decision by Volvo Ocean Race to run a female quota in the 2017/18 event should pay a good dividend for the Mixed Offshore Keelboat in that there is now a good pool of experienced female sailors who can cut over to the Olympic event. They would probably be joined by male compatriots also with Volvo OR experience.

In a New Zealand situation, a combination like Volvo OR veteran Justin Ferris and double Olympian and Volvo OR sailor Sharon Choat-Ferris would be hard to surpass, but not impossible by any means.

A Finn sailor grunts his boat downwind at the 2018 Hampel World Championships in Aarhus - photo © Robert Deaves / IFA
A Finn sailor grunts his boat downwind at the 2018 Hampel World Championships in Aarhus - photo © Robert Deaves / IFA

Those who have taken part in selection trials for offshore racing will know that the process is far from perfect - even to select a three boat team, rather than just one crew.

It is not a simple matter of sending the fleet around the track and totalling the points at the end. With the Mediterranean tipped to be a light weather venue in late July - do you select only on the light air phases of the trials, and hope the venue performs to reputation? Or do you just take the top boat and risk having a crew that was brilliant in the big breeze, flop in a light weather regatta - or vice versa.

We'll have more to say in the coming days.

Stay tuned.

And for all the latest news from Route du Rhum and other events around the world see below.

INEOS Founder and Chairman, Jim Ratcliffe described Ben Ainslie as the `Usain Bolt` of sailing - shown here soon after winning his fifth Olympic medal and fourth Gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Regatta, Weymouth - photo © Richard Gladwell
One of the sailing greats - Ben Ainslie, shown here soon after winning his fifth Olympic medal and fourth Gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Regatta, Weymouth - photo © Richard Gladwell

Between newsletters you can follow all the racing and developments in major and local events on www.sail-world.com by scrolling to the top of the site, select New Zealand, and get all the latest news and updates from the sailing world.

Good sailing!

Richard Gladwell
NZ Editor

Sarasota, Florida, USA is hosting the Annual Conference from 27 October to 4 November. - photo © Daniel Smith
The Board, World Sailing's Annual Conference Sarasota, Florida, USA. - photo © Daniel Smith

 
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F50 in sea trials off the Northland coast - October 2018 - photo © Beau Outteridge
F50 in sea trials off the Northland coast - October 2018 - photo © Beau Outteridge

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Class 40 Imerys Clean Energy, skipper Phil Sharp, during start of the Route du Rhum - photo © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea
Class 40 Imerys Clean Energy, skipper Phil Sharp, during start of the Route du Rhum - photo © Jean-Marie Liot / Alea

 
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Sam Davies will compete in the IMOCA class on board Initiatives Coeur - 2018 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe - photo © Initiatives Coeur
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123 boats in the race village in Saint Malo ahead of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe start on Sunday. - photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX
123 boats in the race village in Saint Malo ahead of the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe start on Sunday. - photo © ALEXIS COURCOUX

 
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Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe - photo © Eloi Stichelbaut
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Francois Gabart on the maxi trimaran MACIF training off Belle Ile ahead of The Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe - photo © Vincent Curutchet / ALéA / Macif
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