World Sailing - Considering the Olympic options

World Sailing has released a report from their Events and Equipment Committee Working Party formed to consider options for the Olympic Events, which looks at the issues over 47 detailed pages.

This is in-depth report contains lots of information on the popularity or not of Olympic sailing, and its place in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) programme as the Olympic Games shifts from a sport-based programme to an event-based programme.

Some eye-catching samples:

- Sailing had an athlete quota of 461 in 1996 reducing to 350 for Tokyo 2020.

- Sailing is one of only five sports that will not have gender equality at event level in 2020.

- New Olympic events should have a ‘unique signature’ or ‘look and feel’ which is readily apparent to broad audiences and the media.

- Average age of the Rio 2016 sailing broadcast audience was 40.2 years - IOC target the under 30s

- Only 6.3% of the 17 area markets analysed watched more than five minutes of the Olympic Sailing coverage.

World Sailing (WS) are to consider the Working Party Report at their Mid-Year Meeting to be held from 12 May in London, UK.

This meeting will determine the Events for the 2024 Olympics. Later the Annual Conference in November will determine the Classes (equipment in IOC speak) to be sailed. Decisions made at the Annual Conference can be overturned at the next Mid Year Meeting but will require a 75% majority.

What it is important to realise is that World Sailing spends a tremendous amount of time debating and organising the Olympic side of sailing, because without the Olympic classes, much of its raison d'être disappears.

In addition, World Sailing received approximately 65% of its revenue (or £11.7 million) from the IOC during the 2013-2016 Quad, which is a pretty good reason to maintain Olympic status.

All this has little to do with the average club sailor, who more than likely does not aspire to sail or race in an Olympic class - which have little regular club class racing and few open meeting events in the UK.

The Y&Y Championship tables show the latest available turnouts at UK Nationals as: 49er - 12, 49erFX - 5, Finn - 45, 470 - 17, Laser Radial - 65, Laser - 23. Hardly earth shattering numbers even for the Laser classes.

Sailing as an Olympic sport in Britain has been very successful, particularly since the government started to heavily fund Olympic sports. This has allowed the RYA to develop and run an exclusive GBR Sailing team programme that is the envy of other keen sailing nations.

The present upheaval in Olympic sailing is caused by the fear that sailing could be dropped from future Olympics as it was from the Paralympics (although it is pencilled in until at least 2024).

The main problem for World Sailing is that the present Olympic sailing events do not meet the IOC gender equality requirements, and the IOC focus on Youth and incorporating events that generate instant results.

The IOC requires all sports to be gender equal, have universality, and be attractive to youth.

Other water sports do not have mixed events but have separate events for men and women. Sailing already has a mixed event (Nacra17) and the Working Party recommends a second mixed event.

World Sailing has ring-fenced five events i.e. classes: the men's 49er skiff, women's 49erFX skiff, mixed crew Nacra 17 multihull, men's Laser singlehander and women's Laser Radial singlehander.

This leaves the men's Finn Heavyweight singlehander, the men and women's 470 dinghies, and the men and women's RS:X boards twisting in the breeze.

The Working Party Initial Recommendations and Observations

The Working Party . . .

(a) Is strongly of the view that no change to the current 10 events is not an option for 2024 particularly because Sailing does not have gender equality in its events.

The 2018 IOC Gender Equality recommendations confirms this is a requirement for 2024. If this is not achieved, Sailing will most likely lose an event for 2024.

(b) Does not support any submission, of the more than 60 received, which does not have at least two mixed events, or which does not give men and women the same number of events.

(c) Supports for inclusion in the 2024 Olympic sailing programme, separate men’s and women’s Windsurfer events with a new format to best showcase Windsurfing and help strengthen the future of Olympic sailing.

The WP therefore does not support submissions with no Windsurfer events, only one mixed Windsurfer event or a combined Windsurf/Kite event.

(d) Considers that the requirement for the Sailing events to include universal events is best met in 2024 by the Men’s and Women’s One-Person Dinghy and the Men’s and Women’s Windsurfer events.

(e) Supports at least one Kiteboarding event. Kiteboarding meets all the key requirements for new Olympic events and will strengthen the future of Olympic sailing. The viable event options for Kiteboarding are a mixed team event or a separate men’s and women’s event.

Therefore, the WP does not support submissions which have no Kiteboard event, which combine the Windsurf and Kite event, which leaves the choice of “board” open (i.e. Windsurfer or Kiteboard) or which proposes a kite event for one gender only.

The WP also makes the following observations: (paraphrased version - Editor)

(f) The WP recognises the commercial potential and benefit for Sailing that an offshore long distance mixed keelboat event offers. This event would have a unique signature, showcase our sport and would be unique relative to all other Olympic (non-sailing) events.

(g) The minimum change possible to meet at least the threshold requirement for two mixed events and equal medal opportunities for men and women, is replacing the Men’s One Person Heavyweight Dinghy with a mixed event (which could be a mixed men’s and women’s singlehanded team relay event as in one of the Submissions).

h) Any additional One-Person dinghy events should have a “unique signature” and be differentiated from the retained Men’s and Women’s One Person Dinghy events.

(i) Any additional Two Person dinghy events should have a “unique signature” and be differentiated from the retained Two Person events.

(j) There is a risk that an event program which has the same event for men and women and significantly different equipment will raise questions with the IOC.

(k) The WP is aware of the view being expressed that Kiteboarding is not sailing and should not be part of the 2024 event program or indeed part of World Sailing. The WP does not agree with this view.

(l) The WP has different views on whether 2 or 4 mixed events should be proposed for 2024 and this issue is still being discussed in the context of the options in the Submissions.

From the 68 submissions, the six Slates that the WP identified for consideration are summarised in Table 1 below.

These all remove the Finn (heavyweight) class, and introduce a Kite event and/or some form of mixed dinghy or offshore event.

Click image for a larger image

The Events & Equipment WP was made up of:

• Fiona Kidd (CAN)
• Dina Kowalyshyn (USA)
• John Derbyshire (GBR)
• Cédric Fraboulet (FRA)
• Sarah Kenny (AUS)
• Stefan Rahm(SWE)
• Bruno De Wanneaeker (BEL)
• Sofia Tedin (ARG) (from February 2018)

Assisted by:
• Alastair Fox (World Sailing Director of Events)
• Carlos de Beltran (World Sailing Technical & Offshore Director)
• Michael Downing (World Sailing Olympic Manager)

The WP met by conference call 10 times prior to the review decision of Council on 19 February 2018 and a further 10 times since that date.

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