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Olympic Class Windsurfing History.

Olympic Class Windsurfing History.

Windsurfing has been an Olympic class since 1981.

The Olympic board choice was between the original "Windsurfer One Design" manufactured by Hole Schwitzer and the "Wind glider" designed and made in Europe. The Windglider was chosen late in 1983 based on it being more "One Design. " The Wind surfer was made of Polyethylene and its rocker could be changed with heat and weight on a daily basis. The Windglider rules used a 6.5-m2 sail but didn't allow harnesses. The dagger board weighed around 4 kg and was worn over the arm during the down wind legs and when reaching, many sailors had badly bruised left thighs from that! The course of nine nautical miles sorted out who had put the time into training. A real Olympic feet just to finish. The supplied equipment was rotated daily
[except for the rigs]. The 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles were won by Stephan Vandenberg from Holland, Scott Steel from USA won the Silver and Bruce Kendall [still the youngest Olympic windsurfing medallist so far at 20 years old] from New Zealand won the Bronze.

The next Olympiad saw the introduction of Division two boards for the Olympics. Division 2 used 6,5m2 sails and were round bottomed boards designed for up wind sailing in light to moderate winds and had a good competitive weight range. Although they were difficult to sail down wind
and technical up wind, they are still the fastest 12-foot board up wind in up to 8 knots of wind. Again, the Olympic Board was decided only one year before the Olympics. The contest had been between the Davidson [a Swedish design] and the Lechner built in Austria. The reason for the choice was a mystery to most, but it was hinted that North Sails had some influence. The final Olympic rig was available less than one year before the Olympics.

Pusan in Korea was reportably a light wind venue. No one realized that information came from the airport that was in a sheltered valley. The 1988 Olympic Games were the windiest ever with one day of racing postponed due to too much wind. One day of racing saw around 30 knots of wind with 5 knots of current going against the wind. There was a lot of equipment damage and rescues for many classes resulting in many DNF's and requests for redress. Again the supplied equipment was rotated daily [except for the rigs]. Bruce Kendall won the Gold [without having to sail the last race] Jan Boresma from the Netherland Antilles [a surprise] won the silver and Mike Gebhart from the USA won the Bronze.

The Olympic Class for the first time was decided four years before the Olympics and it was to include a women's class. This saw a real growth in Olympic windsurfing globally. The Lechner was modified to bring the centerboard and mast track further back. The rig size went up to a camber
induced 7.3m2 rig. This shifted the competitive weight range up without increasing it dramatically. The rig supplier, [Neil Pryde] wasn't decided until 3 years before the Olympics. Barcelona was the first and only time [so far] that the Olympic village was next to the Olympic Harbor. Many there will remember having to sail in the polluted water. The supplied equipment stayed with the sailor for the entire regatta as it was excepted
that each board needed special tuning to the dagger board system. Barbara Kendall from NZ won the Gold, Zhang Xiaodong from China the silver, Doreen De Vries from Holland the bronze. The men's regatta saw a close battle for
gold between Frank David from France [who won] and Mike Gebhart who won the silver. Lars Klepich from Australia won the bronze. There was also some equipment failures of the equipment that effected medal results in this Olympics but for the first and last time there wasn't any redress for
equipment failure. This may have been a factor for the change from the division 2 class to the Mistral Class for the following Olympics.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics sailed in Savannah on Warsaw sound. For the most
part, for the first time had a class ready to go from 1992 on to the 1996
Olympics. This gave the Olympic Windsurfing sport a huge boost and helped
make it more universal. For the first time amid much controversy pumping
the sail was allowed. This had a dynamic effect on the sport and like in
1984, supreme fitness was a factor in deciding the Olympic winner. There
was a surprisingly large amount of equipment failure in 1993 leading up to
the Olympics such that some sailors would sail with an extra dagger board.
Some were able to break the boom at will. Mistral did it's best to remedy
this with some modifications. Again the supplied equipment stayed with the
sailor for the entire regatta. There wasn't any significant equipment
failure that effected medal chances. Sailors had to contend with the 1 hour
plus bus and boat ride from their accommodation to the floating barge where
the equipment was and back every day. Most note worthy were the regular
extreme thunder and lightening storms that postponed and abandoned races
due to the massive wind strength and direction changes. The Windsurfing
Olympic Medallists came from all corners of the world, which shows how
finally the Olympic Windsurfing Class was no longer dominated by the
developed sailing nations. Lee Lai San from Hong Kong won the gold, Barbara
Kendall the silver and Alisandra Sensini from Italy the Bronze. Nikos
Kaklaminakis from Greece won the gold, Carlos Espanola from Argentina the
silver and Gal Friedman from Israel won the Bronze.

There wasn't any significant challenge for the Olympic Class for the 2000
Olympics in Sydney and the Mistral One Design Class remained. This gave the
class the chance to establish its self even better around the world. There
are now more Olympic Class Windsurfing Organizations around the World and
more Olympic Class Boards on the water than ever before. The International
Standard has a broader base than ever before. A look at the last four years
of World Championship results confirms this. The Mistral One Design is the
most "one design" of any of the Olympic Sailing Classes and the least
expensive to campaign. How ever in 1997, Mistral with only good intentions
tried to modify the Olympic equipment to make it, more durable, more "one
design" and more user friendly without increasing costs or changing the
performance. This has been largely achieved. In an effort to further reduce
costs Mistral tried to shift the production of the boards to Malaysia and
then, due to perceived insurmountable difficulties, shifted the production
back to Europe. As often has been the case during previous Olympiads, the
supply of Olympic Equipment didn't always meet demand and this has caused
much frustration for the sailors. This has prompted some to call for a
change. If there is a change of the Olympic Class, we will possibly be
witnessing on Sydney Harbor the pinnacle of Olympic Class Windsurfing in
its purest form. If there isn't a change, the Olympic class stands to only
get stronger and help to build the whole sport of Windsurfing globally
better than ever before.

Due to the big equipment performance differences found else where, Olympic
Class Windsurfing is possibly the most pure type of athletic sail racing in
the world, a real Olympic Sport. Sadly it is and possibly always will be
little understood. Like all small craft sailing classes, the best-informed
spectators are its competitors. It has taken 20 years of two steps forward
and one back for the Olympic Windsurfing Class to get to the level it is
now. As a consequence of the Olympic Windsurfing Class's current
achievements, governments are allocating a lot of funding towards growing
the sport. The current Olympic Class is a great asset to the sport of
windsurfing. Lets look after it and keep the current Olympic Class for
another Olympiad.

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