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Former Athletes Commission member on Olympic class axing

by Laura Baldwin 10 Nov 2018 06:28 GMT 10 November 2018
Young Finn sailors too heavy for any of the proposed 2024 Olympic classes © Robert Deaves / Finn Class

WTF* should never be a question after a decision is made for any change at the Olympic Games. Changes should be made long enough in advance not to immediately impact people’s lives in such a devastating way. There should be no shock surprises.

The latest World Sailing decision to remove the Men’s Power-Dinghy, the Finn Class and amalgamate the Men’s and Women’s 470 events to introduce Mixed Kiteboard and Mixed Offshore Events at the 2024 Olympic Games seems, from outside the World Sailing bubble, to be a jack-up and poses the question, WTF*?

Had this decision been made now for 2028 then all current campaigning sailors would have a chance to fulfill their Olympic dreams and the youth sailors coming through the sport would know this was not an option for them so would not invest emotionally or financially in this direction.

For the past 42 years, male sailors from 55kgs-115kgs have been catered for at the Olympic Games in the sport of sailing. What a great selling point for any sport, to be able to cater for pretty much anyone of any shape and size. Sailing outside of the Olympics is a sport for life.

As a result, young kids of all shapes and sizes were captured by the sport, the Olympic flame representing the burning desire lite inside them, inspired by watching their idols, the big names in the sport, winning their medals.

Having followed the pathways created to feed the classes at the Olympic Games, people invested time, effort and finances to achieve their dream goals, which wouldn’t be wasted if any changes still provided a platform for them to perform. Some sailors have sacrificed education, relationships and savings to pursue their dreams.

Sailing competitively in any class is very weight sensitive, the one-design boats having the smallest competitive weight ranges.

Focus on male weights by class as follows:
• 470 helm 62kgs, crew 70kgs
• Laser 81-85kgs
• 49er 155-165kgs (160kgs average)
• Nacra 130-140kgs
• Finn 90-102kgs

As it stands the Finn’s fit, strong, muscular, athletic sailors have had their dreams shattered by the change, with no suitable equipment available for them at the pinnacle event after 2020. The sailors, coaches, equipment builders, class associations and fans are understandably irate with the process, and there is even a move of, ‘No Confidence’ in World Sailing, which is no good for the sport.

World Sailing could have avoided this outrage with the following changes that need implementing before the next time:

1) Timing, make decisions at least six years before they come into effect, not six years before the Olympics at which the changes will be showcased. This removes a lot of the self-interest that can lead to questionable agendas and would lessen the emotional upset.

2) Communication, ensure the current Olympic and Youth sailors are communicated with regarding any proposed changes. The first they hear of a change shouldn’t be the day it passes within WS.

3) Representation. The role of the WS Athletes Commission is stated as, acting as the link between active Olympic sailors and World Sailing and the roles are clear. Link to a webpage. There needs to be a way for sailors to have their say, so they feel heard. An online voting system enabling eligible sailors to vote on proposed changes that directly affect them. The statistics should be visual for all to see on a platform that is tamper proof. These opinions can then be considered by the WS Committees, in their decisions. With everything being transparent, this would eliminate any feelings of misrepresentation and lack of consultation.

4) Opportunities. As concluded by the 2010 World Sailing Olympic Commission: "Events should be chosen primarily to offer a range of options to younger athletes. Younger athletes should not be denied the opportunity to participate in order to include events that, mainly by virtue of the equipment chosen, provide new opportunities for those that have already had an opportunity to participate in other equipment. At the same time, older athletes should be encouraged to continue to compete in the Events selected."

Also, existing sailors should not be denied the opportunity to participate when equipment changes are made.

5) Limit to a max of two equipment changes per Olympics. Each change makes a wide range of invested parties redundant, often burdened with equipment that has lost its resale value so limiting those who have enough funds to reinvest.

There's a flicker of hope for our heavy-weights. There is a chance this decision could be overturned if the IOC reject the proposal. The Senior Vice President of the IOC, Ng Ser Miang, from Singapore, put out a press release on 30 October questioning the decision-making process, lack of leadership, cherry picking, commercial interest manipulation.

The Mixed One-Person Dinghy was the joker in the pack

The MNA’s and World Sailing Council could have opted to choose Submission 46 written by the RYA for the May conference where it was dismissed then resubmitted by the Canadian’s for the November AGM.

Had the MNA’s voted to look at the alternative submissions and amendments, which was the first question asked in the final meeting, then they could have voted to make just one change to achieve their objectives of meeting gender equality and introducing the Kiteboard. The proposal was effectively to make just one change, from 470 Men for the Mixed Kiteboard.

*WTF in this context is "Where's The Finn?"

Have your say vote for one of four options for Events in the 2024 Olympic Regatta click here to vote

The 2024 Paris Olympic Sailing Events selected by World Sailing on Sunday 4th November 2018:

Men’s and Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X or it could be a foiling windsurfer
Men’s and Women’s One-Person – Laser and Laser Radial or it could be an RS Aero, D-Zero or Melges 14
Men’s and Women’s Skiff – 49er and 49er FX – 100% safe for 2024
Mixed Two-Person Foiling Multihull – Nacra 17 – 100% safe for 2014
Mixed Two-Person Dinghy – TBC but likely 470?
Mixed Two-Person Offshore – TBC
Mixed Two-Person Kiteboard – TBC

About the Author:

Laura Baldwin's sailing career spans four Olympic cycles, as a sailor, coach, and national team management, she was an Athletes Commission Representative for seven years

2007-2014 ISAF Athletes Commission Rep for the Laser Radial Class, elected by the Radial competitors at the ISAF World Sailing Championships in 2007
2007-2015 World Sailing Women’s Forum
2004 British Olympian in Europe Class (class dropped after this Olympics, leaving her heartbroken and with a load of equipment that lost its value overnight)
2005-2008 Laser Radial Campaigner
2008 Media and Marketing Coordinator for the Australian Sailing Team
2012 London Olympic Games, Australian Team Laser Radial Coach
2016 Rio Olympic Games, Hungarian Olympic Coach
2010-2015 Australian Laser Class Secretary
2013-2015 International Byte Class Secretary