470 on the chopping block
Day 1 of the Mid Year Meeting and the Events Committee discussed all the options and laid out the proposal to include the following events in the Paris 2024 Olympic Regatta line-up:
Windsurfing for Men & Women
A new singlehander (Women)
So, no room for the 470. My insider at the meeting said the Events Committee did a good job of running the discussion, chaired by Sarah Kenny from Australia. Obviously 470 fans will take no pleasure from today’s recommendations by the Events Committee, and these recommendations have yet to be voted on by Council on Monday. That’s the bit that really matters. So doubtless there will be plenty of late-night lobbying and politicking going on over the coming hours and days.
So why have Events gone for this selection, and why did other recommendations get rejected? For example, with the drive towards 50:50 gender equality, one option could have been to balance off the Finn with a Women’s 470. However, there are two important factors going against what seemed a good, conservative solution:
1. The IOC likes to see ‘like for like’ events in all the sports. So if the Men have two singlehanders, why not the women? If the Finn is to stay, it needs a female equivalent. On this basis, no go for a Women’s 470.
2. The other big thing is ‘Universality’; having as many nations as possible represented at the Games. With a limited athlete quota and pressure to reduce the overall size of the Games, doublehanders soak up twice the number of athletes as singlehanders. The future looks bright for singlehanders for this reason.
Meanwhile, kiteboarding was well received by the IOC at the Junior Olympic Games, so - rightly or wrongly - this was an obvious way of keeping the IOC happy. And windsurfing has done a good job of making itself relevant. It sort of ticks that ‘urban’ box beloved of the IOC, and it’s affordable and accessible to a large number of nations.
With all this said, the Events Committee only makes recommendations. The Council members will have their say on Monday. Word is that quite a few of the Council representatives - such as former America’s Cup winner Gary Jobson - favour the offshore keelboat. This radical option didn’t get much of a look-in from the Events Committee, but it’s quite possible that the Finn and the new women’s singlehander could be swept aside for the offshore keelboat. Then again, that Universality factor would weigh against the keelboat, not least that it could be a very expensive option only affordable by the big sailing nations. Not very inclusive, but good potential for media appeal.
It’s probably not worth too much effort speculating on the identity of a second women’s singlehander, but could it be a return for the Europe dinghy, which looks like a baby Finn? It’s technical, it suits lighter weights than the Radial and it avoids that other elephant in the room, a potential lawsuit against World Sailing over the use of single manufacturer one-designs. The anti-competitive monopolistic argument. Other options could be the increasingly popular RS Aero or the (heaven help us!) Laser 4.7.
Anyway, one thing at a time. Plenty of politicking to come in the next few days.