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Will ISAF get trapped by political concessions regarding the Olympic Games 2016 ?

Written by Editor on . Posted in News

A lot has been written about the ISAFs Olympic Commissions report and the resulting Executive Committee submission in the last weeks.

There is no doubt that the Olympic Commission has done an outstanding job by firing the first bullets on some of ISAFs holy cows, however there is still a huge risk that the final decision makers inside ISAF fail half way up the hill.

This article focuses on the risk factors resulting from the obvious discrepancies between the Olympic Commission report and submissions 096-10 and 097-10

Risk Factor 1: Core and remaining events

The Olympic Commission has suggested to have up to 8 “core” events, and to reserve 2 events for new and fascinating developments in sailing.

Submission 097-10 now talks about 6 core events (basically covering the established “widespread” events) and 4 remaining events (as far as it can be seen until now, solely to please some established classes political interests).

We believe that all events and equipment should be decided in a single slate – how can one vote for the core events without knowing the outcome of the remaining events and vice versa. Events are stringently connected with equipment that people have in mind – we should accommodate that in the selection system.


Risk Factor 2: Setting the most media and youth attractive classes against each other

The core events see windsurfing set against kiteboarding in a single step evaluation process for men and women.

The first question that arises is: why ? Can two events be more different than windsurfing and kiteboarding, both again being so different to sailboats ?

Sailboats have masts, windsurfers have swivel mounted masts, kiteboards have no masts at all. All other categories of sailing vessels are more similar to each other than to windsurfing or kiteboarding.

One of the requirements of the International Olympic Committee is that two events cannot be similar. Rather than selecting multiple times small white boats, the choice should be to select events by their variety – and windsurfers and kiteboarders represent this variety better than any other boat class.


Risk Factor 3: Political concessions

Almost all of the events and equipment proposed in Vote 2 of submission 097-10 are political concessions – except the multihull, on which the whole sailing world believes that it has been a mistake to eliminate this piece of equipment for the 2012 Games. Let’s have a closer look:

2nd 1 Person Dinghy

The only reason for a 2nd 1 Person Dinghy is to allow a different weight category to compete – or in other words to save the Finn.

The distribution of weight conforms to the usual bell curve – meaning a big part of the population falling into a certain weight category, which - in terms of one design boats – establishes the suiting class then.

Obviously the Laser is the suiting class for the 1P dinghy – so what could be the motivation for a 2nd 1 Person Dinghy Event ?

The 2002 Report of the Olympic Programme Commission stated, that any weight classifications should be removed from the Olympic Programme, except in martial arts and weightlifting.

ISAF is putting it’s own Olympic future at risk by supporting a 2nd 1 Person Dinghy Event.


2nd 2 Person Dinghy

The 470 is proposed as mixed event, but almost the same problems exist as for the 2nd 1 Person Dinghy. The ideal helm and crew weight is far off from the average weight distribution, and thus it is just another political concession.

Furthermore, how can a more than 50 year old design, which has passed its prime, considered to be media and youth attractive – another key requirement of the Olympic Commission.


Also in the 2002 Report of the Olympic Programme Commission it was stated, that

It was noted that the Keelboat class are very expensive boats and demand costly infrastructure for Olympic competition, and for general practice and development in comparison to other classes. Therefore, if the Executive Board recommends the reduction in the number of athletes and events, the Commission believes these reductions could be made through the exclusion of keelboat sailing events from the Programme of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, which would also reduce the construction and operational costs and complexity

The Olympic Commission took this up and stated that keelboats are typically the most expensive Olympic Event (costs – one of the key issues for the IOC), they are not raced at the ISAF Youth World Championship (where is the required pathway ?) and that they reduce the number of events available for new sailors, therefore fewer sailors can experience the Olympic Dream.

Another conclusion of the Olympic Commissions Report, as outlines in submission 096-10 is, that the Olympic Games must be the pinnacle event for this category of events and classes.

Keelboats have a well established and recognized Match Racing World Tour which is considered to be the pinnacle of the sport, and the womens keel boat racing seems to go in the same direction.

What realistically could be then the reason for keelboat events in the Olympic Games, except saving the Star ?


There are only few events and their associated classes that fully comply with the Olympic Commissions requirements as well as fulfilling all criteria of the International Olympic Committee.

A comparison chart can be found below in APPENDIX A (external link), listing the requirements of the Olympic Commission as well as the requirements outlined by the International Olympic Committee.

Not complying with these requirements means killing Sailing as an Olympic Sport  - rather sooner than later !

ISAFs decision maker should follow their own guidelines and comply with their requirements; and should prevent to choose the “easy way”, giving in to political concessions.

The logical consequence to the Olympic Commissions report can only be to select:

1 Person Dinghy Men and Women

2 Person Skiff Men and Women

Windsurfer Men and Women

Kiteboard Men and Women

Multihull (Men and Women)

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