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The coach boat epidemic and UK Sport funding

In a letter published in Seahorse magazine, triple Olympic medallist (2 gold, 1 silver) Rodney Pattisson MBE, commented on rise of the coach boat epidemic and the effect of UK sport funding on dinghy club sailing.

He does not see why coach boats cannot now be banned to level the playing field, and Olympic sailors involve themselves more with the clubs to encourage those coming up behind them.

He suggests that:

'Getting rid of coach boats altogether, not just Olympic coaches, would reduce costs considerably across the entire sport of sailing, and for the better.

Making it less elitist and fairer for all sailors, both rich and poor, hoping and trying to compete at Olympic level.

Their learning curve, as in my day, can once again be based upon their accumulated experience in club and class championship competition.

In turn, of course, encouraging those coming up behind them.'

There has been some talk recently of reducing or even banning coach boats, but more from an enviromental viewpoint then turning back the clock.

Regards the second point of returning Olympic sailors to the club environment, closing that particular box may be more difficult.

The UK has built a system based on an elite pay-rolled group, removed from the clubs to win Olympic medals.

Of course, back in the day, East Germany and the USSR were way ahead at this.

For these "professional" dinghy racing sailors, the reality is that, remove the state payroll and how would they make a living on the Olympic classes race circuit?

World Sailing has tried and failed to produce a professional circuit as in tennis or golf etc.

The match-racing circuit is building, but few if any of the potential Olympians can spend the time required on that, until their time in the Olympic squad is run.

As Rodney Pattison points out, the UK system encourages Olympic sailors: 'especially the medallists, to keep going through successive Olympiads for as long as they possibly can.'

Even with the recent change of RYA Olympic Manager, I see little chance of the system changing.

British Olympic sailing is locked into a political scheme that sees Olympic medals as an essential feel-good factor.

And until that changes, UK sport will jump through any hoops required to get their share of the pot.

The golden age that Pattisson was such a part of is gone. Sadly highlighted by the recent deaths of Paul Elvstrom and Sir John Oakeley.

Sailing has been stumbling along for some time now in a gentle decline, occasionally shaking the Olympic tree to convince everyone that less is more.

Original letter published in the Feb 2017 edition of Seahorse.

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