Olympic Sailing: Current ranking system lacks sufficient accuracy

Published on April 7th, 2014

The ISAF World Sailing Rankings for Olympic classes as of 7 April 2014  has been released. The rankings are done solely by calculation, wherein each competitor counts his or her best six results over the previous 12 months. Of those six results, there are some restrictions as to what events can be included. Also, events are weighted, with events of greater importance receiving more credit.

A calculated ranking system is by far the easiest to administer, and the least likely to face political conflict. However, it is also doomed to be inaccurate.

The best team competing in the Nacra 17 mixed multihull is Billy Besson and Marie Riou of France, who are reigning World Champions and last week won the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Spain. They are ranked 14th.

The best Finn sailor is Brit Scott Giles, who has finally been passed the torch from countryman Ben Ainslie. Giles won the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Spain, as he had done in the last two Finn events of any consequence. He is ranked 15th.

The best team competing in the Mens 49er skiff is 2012 Olympic silver medalists Peter Burling and Blair Tuke of New Zealand, who are the reigning World Champions and last week won the ISAF Sailing World Cup event in Spain. They are ranked 33rd.

With examples of under-ranked sailors, there are examples of over-ranked sailors.

Not all of the 10 Olympic class rankings are suspect. For those that are accurate, it is because the best sailors have fulfilled the requirement of having six qualifying events. Each of the examples above is due to a lack of sufficient participation, not sufficient skill.

There are no medals awarded to top ranked sailors, but a ranking system in sport does incite conversation and curiosity… as long as the system has some validity. The current ranking system is an improvement over the system used in the previous Olympic quadrennial, but still requires changes for it have the level of respect it deserves.

Source: Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt

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