FORMAT: Creating an Olympic crescendo

Published on April 3rd, 2013

The 2013 ISAF Sailing World Cup Palma (Apr 1-6) is testing a new format that might be used at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The format’s ideology is to emphasize winning races, and to emphasize performance at the end of the event rather than the entire event.

However, in a sport where the playing field is not fixed, sailing has always emphasized consistency over a series of races to determine its winners. But consistency isn’t sexy, and ISAF believes that sailing needs more excitement to secure its position as an Olympic sport.

Not everybody is thrilled about the changes, least of all Victor Kovalenko, Australia´s head sailing coach, who is credited for his charges winning five gold medals over four Olympics.

“The new ISAF World Sailing Cup scoring format is flawed,” Kovalenko told “The events must respect effort; this new scoring format does not do that.

“What is the point in the top sailors, across all the classes, pushing hard, exhausting themselves wearing out sails and risking overall equipment? One team could have six wins and the next team could have six fifth places and after the qualifying series, there would be just one point between them carrying forward. (And you can discard that result – so it’s meaningless.)

“What is the point of sailing hard? It is senseless, it’s better to preserve body, sails and equipment for the second part of the regatta. Another team or sailor that does not try in the first part of the regatta can easily snatch victory in the medal races, because they are rested.

“Is that good for the event? The media will soon tell everyone, oh ignore the first part of the event, it hardly matters.

“ISAF should think a little bit more, because they think their only customers are spectators on the shore. Their customers include the sailors and if the sailors are not happy and tell the Worlds sports community, not the just the sailing community, that ISAF scoring system is unfair – that is a very bad message.”

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