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How is Olympic Sailing scoring at the “Generation Facebook" ?

Currently we are told every evening in the news shows that the so called “Generation Facebook” is turning the world upside-down. Surely in the Arabic world at the moment, where change and revolution is borne by the young generation, but chances are great that the spirit of revolution also reaches the sailing world.

As Magnus Weatley from Rule69Blog has correctly outlined in his recent article at, the main question is not IF revolution will happen, the question is more if the young generation of sailors is initiating this revolution or if the almighty IOC beats them. The tool of the IOC is an easy one – money. Once sailing is excluded from the Olympic Games for not listening to the demands of the International Olympic Committee, the shouting will be heard in all yacht harbors in the world.

Remember: in November 2010 the ISAF council followed the recommendation of the Events Committee (surprisingly, for the first time probably...) by agreeing a provisional slate of events for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which ignores almost all demands as outlined by the IOC. We wonder - which part of “get rid of duplicated events (2nd 1 person dinghy and 2nd 2 person dinghy)” and “get rid of weight category events (1 person dinghy – heavy)” was not clearly expressed by the IOC in the talks with the ISAF Olympic Commission ?

Another main focus of the International Olympic Committee (besides money) has been on attracting the youth, and this brings us back to “Generation Facebook”.

The IOC as well as other (commercially) successful sailing formats like the Volvo Ocean Race, the Extreme Sailing Series, and the Americas Cup are focusing more and more on attracting the “non-sailing-audience” (as sailors are going to watch anyway), which is also much more attractive to the sponsoring industry and the media. Russel Coutts was talking about the fact that spectator and media attractive sailing needs to “meet the expectations of the Facebook generation, not the Flintstone generation”. That means cool and fast boats, and attractive competition formats, media friendly, extreme, close to the shore for perfect spectator entertainment. has recently published a “Facebook League Table” at . We have amended this a bit and take a look now at how the current Olympic Sailing Classes score. For completeness we have also included the International Kiteboarding Association (IKA Class) as campaigning for inclusion in the 2016 Games.

Well, we all know that with Facebook it is a bit tricky to determine how popular someone really is – or do we believe that the top three of the list really “know” so many people ? However, it gives us a first impression, and it obviously tells us that at least the ranks 6-11 are not really popular.

But there is a tool that gives us much more information, and this tool is called “Alexa”. Alexa is a service just as Google, but providing rankings and extended demographics for websites. Although the demographics (we have used the age categories here) are of a bit lower confidence level, they give an idea of what target group a website attracts. The Alexa rankings on the other hand give a quite accurate overview of the overall attractiveness of a website and are calculated from website access numbers, cross references, citations from reliable sources like newspapers etc.

In other words: Alexa measures how attractive a website and especially its content is to the general public, and especially the general media. A question the International Olympic Committee is surely very interested in, as their revenue solely depends on sponsors and TV money – and this an area where sailing is scoring really badly. Have a look and you will understand why:

First conclusion: Sailing attracts an audience of 45+ (as testified by the ISAF website demographics) and if one would go more into detail, one would find that the over-representation is more in the area of 65+ than in the area of 45+.

Classes like Laser, Star and Finn perfectly satisfy this target audience – but this is surely not the target audience the IOC, their sponsors and TV stations are interested in !

Second conclusion: Knowing that for sponsors and TV the most valuable target group is the age group of 25-34 (and, with some extend, the age groups of 18-24 and 34-44), we can adhere that the only two classes which somehow attract the general public and thus the marketing relevant target group, is the kiteboarding class IKA and the windsurfing class RS:X.

Third conclusion: Let’s talk about the Elliott... we can’t help but... NO class website, 4 followers on Facebook, even no information on the ISAF classes website... Is this really how an Olympic Class should be represented ? Looking professional to IOC, TV stations and potential sponsors would be different.

So what is the bottom line of this article ?

Kiteboarding, which is currently not included in the Olympic Games, scores best overall. Only the Laser classes have more followers on facebook, but they represent a whole bunch of boats (Laser Standard, Laser Radial, Laser 4.7, just to name a few). Kiteboarding clearly leads the pack on Alexa – not only on the page ranking but especially by attracting the IOC-desirable target group best. Wouldn’t it make perfect sense then to include something new and attractive instead of retaining something outdated and unattractive ?

Even more alarming is, that Kiteboarding and Windsurfing (RS:X), which scored quite on par with the IKA class, now probably have to share the two “boards medals” as these are the two classes that have been pitched against each other on the current provisional slate, while ALL other classes fail to attract the target group that sailing should try to attract to remain in the Olympic Games.

Let’s hope that common sense and the will to survive in the Olympic Games will prevail on Council, when it comes down to making the final decision on the slate of 10 Olympic events for 2016, beginning of March in St. Petersburg.

Let’s hope that Kiteboarding and Windsurfing are granted more than the two medals that are currently on the slate, to make ISAF attractive to the new generation which is already out there.

The IOC would surely appreciate this.