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Posted by on Jan 13, 2011 in Sailboat Racing, UK, US |

Olympic Sailing: 2016 Planning Update

While Olympic hopefuls are training for the 2012 Games in England, ISAF is already making decisions about 2016.

Last October, I previewed the November International Sailing Federation meetings and what would (or would not) be voted in.  I’m pleased to report that the proposals for the 2016 events were passed (pending a final vote at the mid-year meeting in May), a significant step in its own right; it was the first time ISAF Council (the final arbiters) had adopted the recommendations of the Events Committee. And it’s also a significant step toward establishing classes six years ahead of each Olympics.

Here’s another look at the provisional list of events for 2016:

Men’s and Women’s Board or kite board – Evaluation
Men’s one person dinghy – Laser
Women’s one person dinghy – Laser Radial
Men’s 2nd one person dinghy – Finn
Men’s skiff – 49er
Women’s skiff – Evaluation
Women’s keelboat – Elliott 6m
Mixed multihull – Evaluation
Mixed two person dinghy (spinnaker) – 470

(Events that have “Evaluation” listed next to them will have a sail off between various classes to determine the best equipment.)

Kiteboarding will be considered instead of windsurfing for the 2016 Olympics.

Kiteboarding will be considered instead of windsurfing for the 2016 Olympics.

There are several big changes represented by this list. The most disappointing is the loss of the Star, but with men already claiming an extra event (a second one person dinghy), something had to go. The Star was booted out ahead of the 2000 Games but managed to get reinstated as an eleventh medal; I’m doubtful they can repeat that. But I’m confident that this mighty class will continue to prosper, even outside the Olympic family.

The most dramatic change is the consideration of Kiteboarding for the Windsurfing event. Windsurfing will have to work hard to come up with something that creates as much visual entertainment as Kiteboarding; Kiting will have to work hard to prove it is a “real” part of the sport of sailing. And both processes will be fun to watch.

The other events provide an almost equal balance between men and women, and also make one change I’ve been in favor of for years: combining the men’s and women’s 470 into one medal. And, for the first time, we have a requirement for mixed events. That’s a better reflection of non-Olympic sailing, and it may also help create a more “normal” social atmosphere on the Olympic campaign trail.

Women’s Match Racing will debut at the 2012 Games in purpose-built and supplied Elliott 6m’s. The boats have been included for 2016 (it would’ve been crazy to eliminate this new class now that several federations have purchased boats); a final call about Fleet or Match Racing will not be made until November, 2012. This will give everyone a chance to see how Women’s Match Racing fares as part of the Olympic family. Match racing offers a crowd-pleasing format (close to shore, with the winner always first across the line), but it also requires logistics and expenses that may prove too much to be justified.  View John Payne’s photos from a recent USSailing Team Alphagraphics qualifier

ISAF’s decision has once again provoked a discussion about what kind of boats should represent our sport in the Olympics, which is a good thing. And best of all, it’s mostly happening outside that smoke-filled room where no one has a voice besides the ISAF Council.

Read the ISAF press release