Equipment for 2024 Olympics and Beyond
Delegates at the World Sailing Conference in Sarasota are going to be asked to vote again on Olympic Equipment Selection. Undoubtedly, each delegate and the MNA they represent wants to do what’s best for the sport. Of course, if everyone agreed on “what’s best for the sport”, the vote would be unanimous. History suggests that consensus is unlikely. However, there’s a way of looking at the issue which might help:
You will know that an athlete has very little chance of success at the Olympics unless he / she is professional. Traditionally, athletes are able to be “professional” – in other words, “compete full-time and earn a living from participating in a particular sport” – if the public is interested enough in what they do to pay to watch them compete. An athlete could also be able to compete full-time if he / she is high profile enough to do product endorsements, public speaking engagements, etc. You will be aware of how few sailors, especially in the traditional Olympic classes, get well-paying opportunities to do either of the above.
Specifically, in yachting, there is another type of competitor who earns a living racing on boats like TP52s, maxis, J Boats, etc. Again, they are in the entertainment industry – in this case by helping wealthy owners to compete against other wealthy owners.
Note that the funding from governments (e.g. via lottery funding, etc) is likely to be more based on “medal prospects” than “medal prospects in an particular class”. Governments just want to win medals for national pride – they are agnostic about the events those medals are won in.
The above leads us to current and future Olympic classes:
There are always arguments against Change. That happens in one’s personal life, business, sport – in fact anything you care to mention. Resistance to Change is normal and it must be recognised for what it is – a normal human response when faced with something different. Progress happens when people take a deep breath and embrace the future (and their fear of Change). In this case, a typical resistance to Change response will be an argument about the Capital cost of replacing existing fleets – an argument that doesn’t actually hold water when one considers that Opex (including consumable equipment) is, by far, the larger cost in campaigning for the Olympics. And, of course, hanging onto 50+ year old classes indefinitely might just result in us being thrown out of the Games.
It’s time that World Sailing is helped by MNA’s and delegates to make the large and sweeping changes that are required to ensure that Sailing remains relevant at the Olympics. That will happen when there’s a realisation that “doing what’s best for the sport” involves putting ourselves in the place of the IOC and understanding what they need from us. If we give the IOC what they require, the odds are that Sailing will be better off too.
Roy Dunster / South Africa