ISAF Tip: We've been talking, and I've decided


The recent decisions by the ISAF Council on the classes destined to become Olympic were in a sense sensational even though something similar was to be expected. In fact there has long been a move to replace relatively slow and heavy classes with lighter and faster running ones (and in private conversations many of the ISAF team have said as much) so something along these lines might have been expected.

To ensure that the Council's decisions on future classes did not appear arbitrary, an ISAF Select Committee was appointed last autumn to make a system of estimates and recommendations that would enable the Council to make a more or less objective selection of the classes for Rio 2016. Decisions were to be made on three positions - women's light dinghy-double (skiff or skiff in modern terminology), mixed catamaran and men's and women's windsurfing or kite.
The Russian delegation went to the ISAF Council meeting with the following initial positions: to perform for the women's skiff 29erXX (or as a reserve for 49er FX), for the catamaran Tornado and for the sailing board RS:X. None of these decisions were destined to be made.
In the women's light dinghy (skiff) class, almost all members of the Selection Committee had a poor opinion of the 29erXX class, calling it unsportsmanlike (too light to sail) and underloaded with sails, especially on sharp courses. Only two of the Selection Committee members included 29erXX in their top three choices. Of course, one could argue that the Selection Committee members were not made up of the world's strongest racers - but what's done is done. Six members (including our delegation) voted for 29erXX, but 12 members preferred the Selection Committee's recommendations.
As a result, the Olympic class was the Mackay FX - actually a variation of the 49er with the same hull but a shorter (by a metre) mast and correspondingly smaller sails. In fact, any 49er can be turned into a Mackay FX (aka 49er FX) by replacing the mast (the logic is roughly the same as with the Laser and Laser Radial classes).

With catamarans everything did not turn out the way the Russian delegation would have liked either. Tornado - in which we have both coaching and racing experience, and even winning (first place in the world championship) - did not pass. The selection committee recommended the Council to choose between two models: Viper and Nacra 17. The votes were equally divided in the Sports Programme Committee, but the Council sided with the newly created Nacra 17 class.
The big news is that from now on, windsurfing will no longer be an Olympic event! The selection committee made a recommendation to include kiteboarding in the list of Olympic classes. Lobbyists of kiteboarding reached their goal. Here is how Oleg Ilyin writes about it: «Duringdiscussions the kiteboarding advocates emphasized full compliance with the IOC criteria of Olympic sports, availability of price, transportability, high attractiveness for young people, the rapid growth in popularity, constant mediainterest, simple racing rules and therefore attractiveness for spectators.
Unfortunately, only three members were in favor of kiteboarding. On the whole, kites had a strong and highly organised election campaign, while boards, while confident of winning, did little to maintain their place in the Olympic programme
Yet « lobbying power of one side and the itch for change of the other probably had a big influence on windsurfing or kiteboarding». And not the voice of reason at all.

However one should not consider this decision to be absolutely final. There are a lot of problems in adapting the existing racing rules for kiteboard racing - how, for example, can we adequately evaluate the binding of the two projectiles? So the final decision on this issue will not be made until November this year.
For now, the list of Olympic classes for the 2016 Games is as follows:
men and women - kite
men's single - Laser
women's single - Laser Radial
men's heavy single - Finn
men's two - 470
women's two - 470
Men's Light Two (Scythian) - 49er
women's light two (skiff) - 49er
mixed catamaran-double - Nacra 17

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