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Sailing at the Olympics - event choice may be between a windsurfer and a kite-board

Olympic sailing destined for another major jolt at Athens in November
9:56 AM Thu 30 Sep 2010 GMT -

The Olympic shakeup by the world governing body, the International Sailing Federation, looks set to continue at its Annual Conference in just over a month’s time in Athens.

In a raft of changes the Olympic Commission and all-powerful; Executive Committee have recommended the creation of a core group of Olympic events which can only be changed on ten years notice, subjecting many classes to evaluation trials, and sweeping changes to the new sailing World Cup to make it a more regionalised event.

Only three of the current ten Olympic classes are reasonably assured of a place in the start line for Brazil in 2016.

The breadth of the changes will make it virtually impossible for the classes and vested interest groups to be able to thwart any one measure, as has been done in the past when self-interest has been placed ahead of the good of the sport.

That attitude has placed Yachting at risk of being dropped from the 2016 Olympics - where two of the existing Olympic sports are expected to be removed as happened for the 2012 Olympics to make way for the introduction of Rugby and Golf.

The Tornado will probably not re-appear at the Olympics but a Mixed Multihull Event is a distinct possibility

Proposals from the ISAF's Olympic Commission centre around the process by which Olympic Events are selected and recommend the extension of the change period from four years to six.

In other words the Events for 2016 will be chosen in 2010, and finalised in May 2011, rather than immediately following the next Olympiad in November 2012.

Equipment, a cute International Olympic Committee term which translates into ISAF-speak as the classes to be sailed will still be chosen fours years ahead of the Olympics, as at present.

The objectives of the submission is to subject the Events to satisfying ten criteria including providing pathways, reduced costs and progress towards having an equal number of Mens and Womens events – an objective which may also be achieved through the use Mixed (one male and one female sailor) events.

The RS:X Board will have to undergo a double trial if it is to remain in 2016

The submission also proposes the creation of a super Event known as a Core Event which may only be changed on 10 years notice and with the two thirds vote in favour by the ISAF Council.

There are to be a maximum of eight Core Events on the ten event Olympic calendar, meaning that at least two Events can be rotated on six years notice and the classes (Equipment) within all events on four years notice.

Any new classes introduced may only be done so after evaluation trials have been conducted by the ISAF.

The Olympic Commission headed by Yachting Australia CEO, and ISAF Events Committee member, Phil Jones was established by the International Sailing Federation to review and recommend changes to the format of the Olympic sailing regatta and sport, after it became obvious to all but the very shortsighted that Sailing was at real risk of being dropped as an Olympic sport.

If the 470 makes it back for 2016, it will probably be as a Mixed crew boat with cost reductions

Key issues that needed to be addressed by the Olympic Commission included the fact that Sailing was one the least watched sport in terms of television hours, but one of the most expensive to produce.

The Olympic sailing regatta was one of the more costly to stage, but attracted the lowest paying gate in terms of spectators who purchased tickets.

In terms of regional distribution, sailing countries represented at the Olympics came predominantly from Europe with 43 of the 45 national sailing federations represented, in stark contract to the likes of Oceania which has just two of its nine Federations (Australia and New Zealand) and Africa with three of 15 represented.

That regional imbalance was not reflected in other sports and needed to be rapidly addressed by the International Sailing Federation if the sport was to retain its place at the Olympic table beyond 2012.

In May 2010, the Commission produced a 58 page, very detailed report, which was presented to the Mid Year meeting at Lake Balaton, Hungary – which covered all the required changes and invited submissions.

The Laser Radial looks secure as the Olympic Womens singlehander

Although many National Authorities and individuals responded, none of the current Olympic class associations made their views knows to the Commission.

In a second submission, the Executive Committee of the ISAF, comprising its inner sanctum of President, Vice Presidents and Treasurer, have proposed the Core Events for 2016 shall be a Board (Windsurfer) or Kiteboard for Men and Women; a one person dinghy for Men and Women, with the Laser and Laser Radial specified; and a two person Dinghy (skiff) with the 49er confirmed as the Mens Equipment and the Womens boat to be decided after a further set of Evaluation trials. The Board/Kite-board would also be chosen after Evaluation Trials.

The remaining four Events would be chosen from a slate of four events, across the gender options – Men, Women and Mixed.

The 2016 Event choice will be between a Windsurfer and a Kite-board

The Event options being a one person dinghy, a two person multihull (in the mixed category and to be selected after Evaluation Trials). If a second two person dinghy is chosen as an event then it is suggested that the 470 be used as mixed crew boat with a more cost-effective configuration of the class used. If a keelboat is selected for men, then that will be subject to Evaluation Trials, meaning that the venerable Star will go under the hammer. The recently selected Elliott 6 metre will be the class if a Womens Keelboat is selected as an Event for 2016.

In a move to increase the profile of Olympic sailing an additional submission proposed that the Sailing World Cup be sailed in five regions of the world instead of being European centralised as at present.

That being accepted the Sailing World Cup would be used as a regional selection trial for the 2016 Olympics (with 50% of the places at an Olympics being chosen from regional trials).

Additionally the Olympic classes would lose the right the stage a World Championship outside the Sailing World Cup, but could still hold an all-comers championship under another name, such as the Finn class does with its Finn Gold Cup.

Poor gate numbers at the 2008 Olympics saw yachting as the worst spectator sport.

The proposed loss of a stand alone world championship is being opposed by many of the Olympic classes, citing a loss of identity and class revenue.

The moves will be debated by the Events Committee and then the ISAF Council at its Annual Meeting in Athens Greece. However the basics of the changes are unlikely to be altered. They were discussed with the International Olympic Committee at a joint meeting on 1 September.

The Sailing Olympics must lift its TV audience and reduce production costs

Full story with pictures

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