OLYMPICS: Testing the format at the ISAF Sailing World Cup

Published on April 30th, 2013

When the ISAF Sailing World Cup was launched after the 2008 Games, the concept was to bring together the existing major regattas on the Olympic sailing circuit, improving the publicity for both the events and the athletes. But the events have also been a proving ground for the format to be used at the Games.

The mission for ISAF is to better model the sailing events after other Olympic events, wherein the final race determines the medals. The final non-discardable, double-point Medal Race day was introduced for the 2008 Games, which helped to attract fans and media attention.

However, even with the Medal Race being so heavily weighted, there still have been instances when the gold medal was decided beforehand. So ISAF is seeking to tweak the format again, in hopes of solidifying the crescendo of the final day. The Sailing World Cup events have been testing various formats, but not every change is well received.

The conflict is what the sailors deem fair versus the drama that ISAF seeks to create. Gary Bodie, who is on the ISAF Events Committee, is concerned that what is being trialed now is not well understood. Here Gary explains the situation…

The athletes and coaches are missing the point on their feedback of the Olympic format being trialed at the ISAF Sailing World Cup (SWC) events. We are trying to test the “Olympic” formats, not the SWC formats. Specifically, the Carry Forward race from the Qualifying Series is just a contrivance so that we can accurately judge the proposed Olympic format.

The proposal for 2016 Olympics Games is to have six races, with the top ten advancing to the Medal Race day with two non-discardable double-poing races. Call it 6+2, instead of the 10+1 format used at the 2008 and 2012 Games.

The reasoning behind 6+2 is that the fewer races you have as qualifiers before the medal race(s), the more likely the medal race(s) will really count. And of course, the more medal races you have, the more likely they really make a difference to the outcome. Additionally 6+2 will shorten the number of days that Sailing is running races during the two week Olympic window.

Unlike the SWC events, the Olympics won’t have a Qualifying Series because the fleets are much smaller. But in order to mimic the Olympics and test the 6+2 format at the SWC, we have instituted the Carry Forward race from the Qualifying Series and we have set the gold fleet size for SWC closer to the Olympic fleet size. Then we can analyze if 6+2 is more compelling or not.

So, the real questions are:
* How do you feel about 6+2?
* And if 6+2 is adopted for the Olympics, would you prefer that the format for the SWC events is as similar to the Olympics as possible?

If your answer to the second question is YES, then for the SWC we need the Carry Forward race to make the Qualifying Series and the gold fleet races look like 6+2.

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