by Mark Jardine May 3 1:30 p.m. PDT
A Hipgnosis image created for Nick Mason’s ‘Ficticious Sports’ album in 1981 © Hipgnosis
This time, 40 years ago, drummer Nick Mason released an album called Fictitious Sports. As with his band Pink Floyd (which released a few slightly more well-known albums), Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis were in demand for the album cover art, creating the image you see above, which seemed appropriate as an intro for this editorial.
When the International Olympic Committee came to World Sailing to say they had concerns with the two-person mixed keelboat for the Paris 2024 Olympics, asking that an alternative be offered, they knew they might be forced to hammer a square dowel into a round hole.
Twenty-six bids were presented, each of which had to be reviewed and verified to see if they met the IOC’s framework of criteria. Ultimately, only three of the submissions were approved by the World Sailing Board for discussion by the Events and Equipment Committees on May 10 and 11, with the World Sailing Council discussing and voting on the alternative. May 14, before May 26 of the IOC. deadline.
The three proposals for approved events are the Individual Men and Women Kite Formula, the 470 Individual Men and Women and the Mixed Team Races in ILCA 6.
The kitesurfing and 470 proposals could be seen as ‘safe’ bids, especially with the 470 men and women being events at Tokyo 2020. With just three years to go to the Paris Olympics, that would ensure continuity. Kitesurfing appeals to Gen Z and Alpha (yes, that’s the term for those born in the early 2010s) that the IOC is desperately seeking in court.
The idea of team racing has been brought up in discussions on social media, but would mixed 2v2 teams in ILCA 6s be good? Team races have almost always been held on boats with two (or more) crews and to my knowledge have never taken place in ILCA 6s with mixed teams. In my opinion the boat is just not suitable for team racing and it is the DIY option. I love the idea of team races bringing together other members of a nation’s sailing team, but that would only be realistic for teams that field a full roster of sailors. The submission may have met IOC criteria, but its artificial nature reminds me of this fictitious sports imagery.
But wait … what about the two-person mixed offshore keelboat? The IOC said it wanted alternatives only in case the keelboat event was not approved. What if the concerns expressed by the IOC were taken into account?
This is exactly what the Ocean and Offshore Committee recommends to World Sailing, reducing the Field of Play from 24,000 square miles to just 400 square miles, while keeping the entire fleet within reach of mobile networks. French. Could that be enough to persuade the IOC that the keelboat at sea event is feasible?
There is so much to sailing and it would be great to see the offshore keelboats pictured. As we have discussed at length before, double-handed keelboat sailing is an area of massive growth in the sport. Additionally, it looks like World Sailing may take a two-pronged approach: offering the alternative while also addressing the issues IOC had with the two-person mixed offshore keelboat.
As Sail-World.com Australian editor John Curnow said when we chatted on Monday:
“Sailing is represented by many large and diverse classes or disciplines. The biggest, and certainly one of the easiest ways to get in, is through keelboats. Just look at all the sticks in marinas and clubs. So if there is even the weakest of embers, or the thinnest of threads that the Mixed Offshore event can take up, then we need it to be embraced for us sailors, and anyone who would like to try. to be wet, windswept and tired, but with a hell of a lasting smile.
“Then there’s the media equation. You might not be in reality TV, but loads of viewers around the world most definitely are. So if three days and two nights isn’t Big Brother’s version of the sail, so I don’t know what the IOC would be looking for in terms of audience retention. So go IOC, take a deep look at what’s on offer here, and all the boxes that the Mixed event would look for. Offshore ticks, true One Design gear delivered to a great leveler whether you are considered a sailing nation or a rank outsider. ”
I’m not a fan of Big Brother, or any other reality TV for that matter, but I know how addicted we were to the Vendée Globe tracker and updates from each of the skippers. With the IOC embracing virtual sports, we could all face the Olympians at home on Virtual Regatta. The virtual Vendée attracted just under a million competitors from 150 different countries. Let’s not forget that this is an 80-day event that takes a tremendous amount of time. An offshore event that has been compressed into, say, three days could draw millions of people first into virtual sailing and then converted to the real version.
The One Design keelboats, supplied to the event by one of the major manufacturers, along with the rig tension set in exactly the same way on each boat, have the potential to provide truly level playing conditions and highlight another side of sailing the world – and a whole new way for non-mariners and sailors to get in on the action.
It will be interesting to see what decision the IOC makes when World Sailing presents its bids, but let’s hope we don’t see the equivalent of cuboid tennis balls and spherical dice in sailing.
Sail-World.com and editor-in-chief of YachtsandYachting.com