Rio 2016: Olympic Event decisons should not be made in a vacuum

Marina Alabau (ESP) Gold Medal winner Womens RS:X - London 2012 - Olympic Games. Spain did not vote for the windsurfer in the ISAF Mid-Year Meeting to select the 2016 Olympic events. Many countries later admitted they had made an error in the May 2012 vote
Carlo Borlenghi/FIV - copyright
As you may know, ISAF have published the submissions to the 2012 Conference in Dublin, Ireland. If it was a question of counting the number in support of the RS:X and windsurfing for 2016, the result of the vote to change the Mid-Year decision would be a foregone conclusion But it's not that simple.

2012 Olympic Games London / Weymouth RSX man racing day 1 RS:X MenUSAWillis Robert
There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that Council takes the chance to reinstate the RS:X for both men and women. However, there is a context to this whole debate that everyone round the world is probably well aware of. ISAF should not be making important decisions such as these in a vacuum.

We are all living through a period of insecurity and systemic financial crisis which is by no means over. Countries are going through a period of austerity. Unemployment in some is at record levels especially among young people. 54% of Spain's youth is unemployed.

That may be an extreme example but it is really just the tip of an iceberg.

Parents, for it is they who invest heavily in junior and youth equipment, have to consider long and hard before investing more money in their children's sporting activities. A recent RS:X survey found that 90% of youth racing equipment is bought by parents. A good used and second hand market is therefore essential.

With one design classes like the RS:X, equipment holds its value for longer because people know that they are buying the same equipment as everyone else users so it should still be competitive especially when it is second hand.

When one considers that a youth may take up to 12 years from their first international championship as a 15 or 16 year old to actually be in a position to win a medal at the Olympic Games, one sees that longer the useful life of equipment the more it holds its value. This is of prime importance. To have a strong youth development programme, we need to ensure that the price at point of entry is reduced to a minimum especially in the current economic climate.

A box rule as proposed by the kite community does not allow this. Advances in design and technology will be made each and every year. Old gear will not be competitive. It will therefore not hold its value. The implication is that parents will be either forced to buy the latest gear or be forced out of the sport altogether for lack of funds.

RS:X - Day 2 Four Star Pizza ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship
With windsurfing in the Olympic family in the form of the RS:X, Neil Pryde supply equipment to the ISAF Youth Worlds and the Olympic Regatta. They also supply charter sets to major RS:X Regattas as they have done to the 2012 RSA:X Youth European Championships and Youth World Championships.

In cash terms in an Olympic year, this amounts to close to US $750,000 worth of support to ISAF, the MNAs and the class when supplied equipment management is also taken into account But the cost of buying equipment is only one side of the coin. The other is the cost of junking ALL the old equipment. When or should I say, if, there is a change from RS:X to kite a small mountain of currently competitive equipment will be worthless.

Many small MNAs [and parents] have spent years and have fought hard to get their National Olympic Committees to invest in windsurfing equipment for the Olympics. If windsurfing is out, it is not simply a question of going back and asking for more money…

There will be no more.

Take any one of the North African countries as an example. Back in the day when the Mistral One Design was the Olympic equipment, four or five of them raced internationally. When the change was made to the RS:X, they were lost to the Olympic pathway. It took eight years for just one of them to come back to an Olympic Q event.

Team GBR - 2012 ISAF Youth Sailing World Championships
ISAF are focused on not only attracting new member MNAs but also helping them raise their game through 'Connect to Sailing' so that they can compete internationally with a real opportunity of winning.

Windsurfing has produced Olympic medallists from every continent except Africa. And even a vice world champion from a small Pacific island. This ability to reach out to a diverse and wide number of small and emerging nations is now in the balance.

Can ISAF afford to change the windsurfing/RS:X event which is proven to fulfill each and every ISAF criteria in terms of cost, equipment control, wide participation, durability and media in favour of the unproven potential of another which has poor participation internationally, equipment that is not fully developed and the potential to be a major arms race?

I'm sure that your answer will be the same as the majority...

Reinstate windsurfing and the RS:X for Rio 2016 and make sure it is a core event for 2020

But that majority has to be 75% of votes cast by Council in favour of Submission #020-12 'To enable the Council to decide to change a part of Regulation 23.1.4. closer in time to the Olympic Games than permitted in regulation 23.1.3'

We seek your support…

Please do all you can to ensure that your council representative says 'YES' to submission #020-12

RSX Class website