Mistakes when the world is watching

Published on August 6th, 2018

As much as we’d like to treat each regatta the same, it’s an approach that is hard to fulfill. The bigger events, with more meaning and pressure, reveal the challenge, and for the Spanish team at the 2018 Sailing World Championships, they have tripped over some hurdles.

Before even their first race, three Spanish 49er teams were disqualified from the first race of the Championship. While training, the three boats were lined up doing some speed testing and sailed through the local ferry channel.

The ferry is a fast catamaran, and they spotted it at a distance. They attempted to sail out of its way, but as it approached at speed they ultimately were in its way, and it was required to alter course and slow significantly.

The maritime infraction was reported to the Organizing Authority who decided to protest the three teams. After a lengthy hearing, each of the three teams has been disqualified from the first race. Additionally, their coach has been barred from the water for 4 days, which includes the first two days of racing. Worse, two of the teams were major contenders for the championship.

But the latest incident appears to reveal something worse: cheating.

The Nacra 17 class struggled through the quadrennium leading up to Rio 2016 Olympics with boats and equipment that were not consistently built by the single manufacturer and without adequate measurement tools to ensure the sailors were not making unauthorized changes.

For this quad, the class was committed to be better prepared, but a measurement protest at the 2018 Sailing World Championships may have revealed one of the Spanish teams was not satisfied with the status quo.

Board rake was an area of dispute before Rio, and now with the boats foiling, it continues to be a hugely important variable. But there are limits to what the rake can be, and the boat of double Olympic Medalist Iker Martinez and his crew Olga Maslivets was non-compliant.

After investigation, the measurement breach was a result of the boat having been manipulated to the point where the changes were deemed to be deliberate, with the impact of the change having a significant effect on performance at slow speed.

The decision of the jury was for the Spanish team to be scored DNE in race 1, but with three races now scored in the Nacra 17 World Championship, Martinez and Maslivets have not been competing. This is likely due to how Martinez has formally been charged with misconduct and will have a Rule 69 hearing on August 8.

The significance of the Sailing World Championships, being held August 2-12 in Aarhus, Denmark, goes beyond determining champions as the event is the first and largest country qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. At this point in the regatta, Spain will not qualify for either event at the Olympics.

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The Sailing World Championships, held once every four years for all ten Olympic classes, has 1,400 sailors from 85 nations in close to 1,000 boats for competition. There are also two kiteboarding events competing, which along with the Olympic classes, have their competition staggered from August 2 to 12.

In addition to World titles, the event is the first and largest country qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with 40% of the places being decided. For information on how nations qualify for the 2020 Olympics, click here.

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