There has been a lot of hand wringing recently over the proposed changes to the Olympic sailing classes and a lot of it totally understandable. Many sailors lament the fact that the Finn has been dropped and after the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo it will no longer be an Olympic class. After 18 Olympic games spanning 68 years the humble Finn will be replaced.
Some of the greats from Paul Elvstrøm and Ben Ainslie to John Bertrand and Russell Coutts have chased Olympic dreams in the Finn class, indeed many of the greatest sailors ever to compete at an Olympic level did so in the Finn class. I can see why people are upset and I too am torn. On the one hand I know that change and innovation has to be at the forefront of our sport and an old class like the Finn is just that; an old class. Heck these days we have flying boats so why not change to something a lot more modern and innovative?
From my understanding the humble Finn is going to be replaced with a mixed-gender, two-person offshore keel boat which sounds a bit ridiculous to me. There have long been keel boats in the Olympics but never an offshore race and it will be hard to envision where they would hold an offshore keel boat race were the Olympics ever to be held in Kansas City. Furthermore, it’s proposed that the offshore event be as long as two days. Who the heck is going to watch that let alone commentate on it and/or cover it on TV?
I think it’s a silly idea in part because there is nothing really athletic about sailing a keelboat. You just sit there on the rail using your body weight to provide stability. One thing that I will say for the Finn is that you had to be supremely fit and have a ton of athletic ability if you were going to dominate the class. Nope that’s not the best idea being put forward but having said that I do like the push toward gender equality and a way to include more women in the sport.
The other class that has found itself on the chopping block is the men’s and women’s 470 which has been an Olympic class since the 1976 games. I think it’s about time this class was removed as an Olympic class. The boat was designed by the Frenchman André Cornu in 1963 making the boat is nearly as old as me and I am old…:) I am sure that there are many who will lament this move, but come on; put the 470 up against 49er and it looks like an out of date truck. It’s about time the plug was pulled on this one. There are still the men’s and women’s one person dinghy in the laser and laser radial as well as the sexy and exciting 49er and 49er FX.
I appreciate that many people don’t like change and that’s totally understandable, but for sailing to become and remain relevant there has to be change and I like some of the proposed new classes, with the exception of the offshore race. One that I really like is the Mixed Kite Triathlon. Here is how US Sailing Reporting Committee describes the proposed event. Mixed Kite Triathlon – equipment criteria: a twin tip board with a foiling option: i.e., convertible, with the capability of a wide range of sailor sizes able to compete. Series production of equipment to control cost of purchase and equipment compliance. Now that sounds futuristic enough for me and a class that should be in the Olympics.
As sailors we understand the nuances of racing a boat using our brains to read wind patterns on the water. It’s why we love the sport, but to the rest of the non-sailing public they have no idea what the heck is going on. We have come to crave fast-paced excitement with plenty of opportunity for crashes, not a tedious beat up the windward leg. I think that kite boarding, especially foiling kite boarding, is going to be awesome to watch on TV so long as we (the non kite boarding public) can figure out who is in the lead. Like it or not sailing has to be telegenic and exciting or else it’s not going to make it as an Olympic sport.
– Brian Hancock.