Thinking outside the sailing box

A recent article by Simon Boyde on Suttlebutt called for a dramatic makeover of the Olympic Games to form a Wet & Dry Games.Ben Ainslie - London 2012

In his article Simon suggests that sailing could combine with other water-based sports to form a better package that still creates sufficient TV viewing figures and allows event restricted sports – like Sailing, Rowing and Canoeing – to be expanded, both in terms of participation and events.

I would hope such an idea is something that has already been discussed within the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and if that is a step too far in one jump, maybe a shuffle in that direction could be made?

World Sailing is desperate to keep sailing in the Games, but realises that with its requirement for a separate harbour venue, and low spectator count, it risks being dropped in any future rationalisation.

This has led them to embrace anything that they think will appeal to the IOC in order to keep the Olympic flame alive for sailing, and also the main justification of World Sailing's very being in its ever expanding form.

The way forward is not to slice and dice the ten existing formats, which have arrived where they are after eons of horse-trading.

But to embrace the various new forms of sailing, boarding and kiting, in the same way that the Winter Games has brought in the snowboarders to boost their exclusive traditional skiing and skating basis.

Sailing and skiing are remarkably alike in that both have grown from a past-time for the rich and bored to fill their time.

The British were well to the fore in developing both these seasonable pastimes until they eventually became world-wide (ish) year-round sports for the middle-classes.

Both face similar problems: With their background for the "rich & bored" they are tarred with the "expensive & exclusive" tag.

Both are faced with upstart variations that might be labelled "cheap & cheerful" and threaten the clubby establishment they have developed.

The Winter Games needed more sports to justify their very expensive venues and improve their TV media ratings.

Thus, the arrival of a multitude of snowboard events that appeal to a younger audience (user), and the expansion of team events, which have the attraction of possible mayhem (always good for TV).

Sailing faced with a similar "expensive & exclusive" tag, embraced the windsurfers (racing only) and has recently claimed kite boarding and is now trying to slip this into their ten-event package.

Click image for a larger image

This is short-sighted. Like skiing, sailing should add additional Olympic events, the more the merrier.

If you have a dedicated venue anyway, enlarge it to provide additional water-based events, keeping the present ten events as a basis of representing dinghy sailing events.

Switch the racing windsurfers for foiling Moths - add a keelboat class, match racing and an offshore big boat event to represent those sailing sections.

And add additional windsurf and kiteboard racing/slalom events in as many formats as you can think of.

You cover a lot more real-world user bases with this wide selection of 'sailing' variants, nearer to the membership of the Member National Authorities (MNA).

It might even help to justify the amount of money spent by certain Governments on the present "expensive & exclusive" selection.

World Sailing is the world governing body for the sport of sailing, officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

The MNA are the principle members of World Sailing and are responsible for the decision-making process that governs the sailing world.

They are the national governing bodies for the sport of sailing around the world. In the UK this is the RYA.

Time to divide the Summer Olympics - Simon Boyde

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