Gladwell's Line: For whom the Olympic Bell Tolls? Part 2

The Multihull TV highlights of the Medal Race won the Golden Rings Award by the IOC in 2008

In this second part of his commentary piece, Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, looks at what he thinks the International Sailing Federation should be selecting as the Events for the 2016 Sailing Olympics

To read Part 1 http://www.sail-world.com/NZ/Gladwells-Line:-For-whom-does-the-Olympic-Bell-toll?----Part-1/83090!click_here

What does the ISAF have to do?

First, think about what is to be done – which is to select a slate of 10 Olympic Events.

Ignore the classes that are already associated with those Events – unless there have been recent Evaluation Trials - in which case pencil those in under the Equipment column.

But do look at class options and how those options could work for the other objectives of the Olympic Commission – improve and spread regional participation; reduce costs for competition; improve television appeal and introduce commonality of equipment for male and female sailors where possible.

Second, drop the Mixed Events. They are an artificial creation for politically correct reasons.

The notion that Mixed Events are more media friendly is a load of codswallop. Instead opt for Open Events and close classes that can be sailed by men and women, or all female, or all male crews. Enforce gender equality (in terms of physical strength and weight) by choosing classes – when that time comes that are equal in the hands of an all male crew, and all female crew or a male and female crew.

Third, bite the bullet on the Windsurfing and Kiteboarding debate. You don’t solve the problem by conjoint disciplines within the same Event. You don’t solve a dilemma by creating an artificial event. The Sailing Olympics need two more events (making a total of 12 in all to accommodate both disciplines. Again one submission was lodged opening this door, but was deferred under an ISAF protocol which determined that two new Olympic Events were a matter for the November Meeting. Good luck on that one.

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So going through the Event exercise line by line we come up with the following:

Windsurfer:
Mens and Womens Windsurfer stays as it is – Kiteboarding goes in as a demonstration sport immediately into the ISAF World Cup with a view to being a medal sport in 2016, or a demonstration sport in that year and a full medal sport, in the 12 Event slate for 2020.

Singlehander:
Mens and Womens Singlehander – stays the way it is – the Laser has universal appeal, and the hulls and foils cross over into the Womens single handed event. All that is required is a smaller rig. But the second hand market is double the size and that is a prerequisite for getting growth into any class. Maybe there is a better boat, but it is not an immediate issue.

Doublehander:
Mens and Womens Doublehander – split the decision here.

The Mens Doublehander is largely resolved using the 49er – which was selected after trials almost 15 years ago – however there are other classes which could be adopted if required.

The Womens Doublehander is less straight forward in terms of Equipment (which we are not selecting at this stage).

One of the decisions taken in the same November 2007 meeting that ditched the Multihull event, also rejected a High Performance Two Hander event in favour of a Womens Keelboat for Matchracing. ISAF did hold Evaluation Trials for a suitable boat for the HP Doublehander for women, these only ran to one event – bothered by light airs, and the moderate heavy air test series never too place.

Most would tout the twin trapeze 29erXX in the slot, however the ISAF has to do the Evaluation exercise properly, look at the wider options, and decide if the 29erXX or whatever is really going to fly. A quick check of results around US and Europe would indicate that the 29erXX fleets on a good day are averaging about 15 boats and there is not a big take-up by all female crews.

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The alternative, at this stage is to do what has to be done – which is retain the Womens Doublehander but use the 470 as the class/equipment, and then drop consideration of the need for a Womens HP Skiff Event to later in the selection exercise.

Multihull
Moving along to the Multihull, it is clear that this Event has to go back into the 2016 Olympics. The Mixed Multihull doesn’t fly for reasons already discussed. It would seem that an Open Multihull is the best option. But chose a boat that is more gender equal if that is required it maybe that a new design/class is required and Evaluation Trials will almost certainly be held.

The fact that the current world champions in the Tornado class sailing in Open competition are a male and female crew points to the fallacy of the Mixed event argument – it is a device for the politically correct.

Don’t forget too that following the 2008 Olympics the Multihull won the www.sailing.org/beijing2008/26552.php!Gold_Rings_Award by the IOC for the best TV highlights package – on the basis of the Medal race sailed in the big breeze of the Medal Race in Qingdao. It won from a total of 27 packages submitted to the IOC

Given what has subsequently happened in the America’s Cup the telegenic appeal of the Multihull can only improve making a compelling argument for its inclusion as an Olympic Sailing Event.

So our count of Events now sits at five, or six if you include the option-less Womens HP Doublehander.

Taking the Discipline approach, so that the Olympics are broadly representative of the sport we have covered four of Sailing’s five Disciplines – Windsurfer, Singlehanded, Doublehanded, and Multihull.

Keelboat:
That brings us to the keelboat, which many believe doesn’t have place in the Five Ring Circus also known as the Olympics.

The dichotomy with the keelboat is that while as a discipline the keelboat is the most widely sailed of any of the types – the Mens keelboat, the Star is not representative of the mainsteam of keelboat sailing.

Elliott 6S
Keelboat sailing is increasingly about high performance boats, not classics on steroids.

In 2008 the ISAF staged an Evaluation Trial for the new Womens Keelboat, from which the Elliott 6 Metre was chosen, While many of the reservations raised in 2007 about including matchracing in the Olympics have proven accurate, the simple fact is that it seems difficult to believe that even the ISAF, could dispatch a class before it has even competed in a single Olympics.

To make such a decision is a huge indictment on the ISAF and the quality of its processes. We’re not just talking about making a single error here – we’re talking about serial offenders. Look at the Multihull eviction in 2007 and likely re-instatement in 2011, and the similar decision reached and seemingly reversed with the Womens HP Doublehander.

Given that the Womens keelboat will probably stay, the question then turns to the Mens Keelboat.

Logically you would look hard at the Elliott 6 Metre – from the perspective of wanting commonality of equipment for Men and Womens events (another desirable identified by the Olympic Commission). From the developing countries perspective the idea does have a lot of merit – as you are getting a one design keelboat, from a common type and one which has a lot of uses from youth and various adult program run by yacht clubs and professionally.

In the Oceania region, which is probably the worst in terms of Olympic participation, there are several fleets of Elliott type keel/sport boats owned by individuals or clubs. There are plenty of other off the shelf boats and designs available around the world. The Olympic boat is not important, but the Event is.

The Elliott 6 Sport would come across easily as the Two Man Keelboat Event equipment.
Looking again at the commonality of equipment for male and female sailors - with the Elliott 6 hull, an extended rig version is close to market – opening up the options for a two or three man crew.

The other issue with the keelboat is always that of fleet versus match racing and the predilection of the competitors, when there is supplied equipment to ship their own boat to the regatta venue anyway.

On the Match racing count there is a tremendous overhead in terms of umpire numbers – which is not consistent with the Olympic Commission prescription of cost reduction – particularly in the number of officials involved in both Olympic and World Cup regattas.
Provided it is cost-effective the remote umpiring solution currently being trialled in Auckland for the 34th America’s Cup would reduce umpire numbers to maybe four or five.

If that is not possible then both keelboat events should be in fleet racing format. With supplied boats it should be possible to race a format that Men and Women share the fleet.

Maybe they do only sail per crew six races to select the final 10 or 12 to contest the Medal race round. But that is generous compared to many other sports which race a heat, maybe a repechage, a quarter final, a semi-final and a final – for a four or five stage competition.

Another prescription of the Olympic Commission was to reduce the length, and cost of the Olympic Regatta.

The slate above – assuming two three person keelboats – one Male and the other Female – we have the Five Disciplines covered, 14 sailors and an eight male six female sailor split. This assumes the Open Multihull has a male and female crew.

Nahid Gaebler
Team Gaebler

Womens Doublehander
There are, however, only eight events in the slate above – meaning there are two remaining.

Clearly there has to be a Womens Doublehander – but is it a High Performance boat as discussed or a more conventional boat of the single trapeze type?

The 470 is the only doublehanded class which has an ISAF recognised World Championship for women – and to our mind that probably tips the scale the 470 way.

Sarah Ayton in action in the 470 class with Saskia Clark
© Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR

The Tenth Event:
That makes nine events, and tenth event could come from one of a second Mens Singlehander, a second Mens Doublehander, a Kiteboard or a Womens HP Skiff.

Looking at those options the second Mens Singlehander needs to be a High Performance type – either the foiling Moth or Musto HPS. Evaluation Trials would need to be held. With the Elliott 6 Metre in as a Mens Keelboat there is no need for a Heavyweight Mens singlehander – so the door is open for the foiling Moth, or the Musto provides the one design solution, both have big TV impact.

A second Mens Doublehander (using the 470), gives equipment commonality with the Womens event. Plus all important second hand market strengthens the case for the 470. On balance, and given that the 470 is the Womens Doublehander - then out of deference to the Developing sailing countries the second mens two hander (albeit with a single trapeze) gets our nod. The fact that it is a large, well established class is significant.

The Kiteboard needs to be either a Mens or maybe Open event – but ideally should be included as separate Mens and Womens events, with two extra Olympic Medal Events making a total of 12 Medals for sailing – without increasing the numbers beyond the current 380.

NZL 49er Peter Burling and Blair Tuke, Perth. Photo by Richard Langdon_OceanImages

Kiteboards are the sixth discipline of Sailing and as such need their own Medal Event. However the ISAF doesn’t need to wait for the sanction of the IOC in this regard – and can include the Kiteboard in the 2012 World Sailing Cup onward, and work up an event routine that works within the context of the Olympic regatta. The Kiteboard should be discounted from the exercise in St Petersburg – it is a separate issue completely.

Once the wind plays ball, the kiters are off and gone - Kiteboarding Demo at the Miami Rolex OCR
Rick Iossi
The Womens HP Skiff is a great concept, but currently falls over for lack of a developed competition base. Until such time as the Evaluation Trials are concluded, and women sailors embrace this concept, buy boats and start sailing without the Olympic backdrop it is hard to see why this option should be progressed ahead of others.

One option for the ISAF, is to keep the decision on the 10th event open until the Evaluation Trials for the Mens HP Singlehander and Womens HP Skiff are concluded and there is a reasonable base of information on which to base a decision. That process could be concluded by November 2012.

In summary, nine of the Events pick themselves. All that really needs to be determined is the tenth. No discipline of sailing has been excluded – all have their place at the Olympic table. The Events selected also have good symmetry with the Events sailed at the ISAF Youth Worlds -creating a progression path for Developing sailing countries.

A point worth noting with the slate above and below is that many of ten Events involve classes that are controlled by common class associations in both Mens and Womens events - making for stronger administration and better competition advances.

In terms of television appeal and spectacle - several will do the job for the ISAF - Windsurfer, Mens Two hander, Open Multihull and Mens Keelboat - if the Elliott 6 Metre Sports version is used. They would have been a hell of a ride on that final day in Qingdao.

From a participation and expansion of the sport perspective, the Windsurfers, Singlehanders, Womens Doublehander and Mens Single Trapeze Doublehander will pull the punters. And the Keelboats run under the right programs will do this job as well.

The above Events slate is not our bet as to how the ISAF Council or its Events Committee will vote.

As was noted previously the ISAF's record of reversed decisions shows that by their own actions, they usually don’t get it right.

We aren’t holding our breath this time either.

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Gladwell’s Line: 2016 Olympic Event Slate
EventEquipment OptionsComments
   
Mens WindsurferRS:XSame as current - Cost reduction necessary
Womens WindsurferRS:X (Smaller rig)Same as current - Cost reduction necessary
Mens SinglehanderLaserSame as current
Womens SinglehanderLaser (Radial)Same as current
Mens Doublehander49erCurrent equipment – but different Event
Womens Doublehander470Current equipment – or finish Evaluation Trials and determine if there is a better option
Womens KeelboatElliott 6 MetreCurrent Equipment – needs cost reduction on Event. Probably fleet racing unless match umpiring overhead can be reduced.
Mens KeelboatElliott 6 MetreTwo man version – Fleet or match racing comments same as Womens Keelboat. Should reduce costs for Developing countries and allow heavier male crews.
Open MultihullEvaluation TrialMay be an existing class or new design. Must be able to have female sailors competing on an equal basis with men
Tenth Event Options – one of:  
HP Mens SinglehanderEvaluation TrialMusto HPS; Foiling Moth – must he High Performance boat
Mens Crewed – Single Trapeze470Uses current equipment
KiteboardEvaluation TrialIs a new Discipline and should be allocated as a Medal Event for Men and Women for 2016/20. Included in the ISAF World Cup in 2012 and onwards.