Olympic Sailing Needs an Offshore Event

Published on October 29th, 2018

An active conversation at the 2018 World Sailing Annual Conference  (Oct 27-Nov 4) is re-imagining the Sailing Program at the Olympic Games. The sport is quite diverse yet the events at Tokyo 2020 will not fully reflect this. Making a pitch for greater diversity is Nicolas Henard, President of the French Sailing Federation.

Sailing has always been my lifetime passion, an essential part of who I am today. Sailing has taught me values that have now become paramount to me in both my private and professional life.

As a dinghy sailor for more than 40 years now, I have also had the privilege of reaching the pinnacle of sailing when competing at the Olympic Games in Seoul and Barcelona, winning two gold medals in the Tornado class.

I also occasionally enjoy recreational cruising though I have never entered the great offshore competitions which fascinate and engage so many people worldwide, far beyond the usual sailing circles.

I personally deeply respect the strong values of the sport of sailing as well as its traditions. As the current President of the French Sailing Federation, one of my most important tasks lies in strengthening the position of sailing as an Olympic sport, in a context where other universal sports are trying to enter the Olympic program.

I for one believe we have to find the best possible balance between keeping our sporting traditions strong, on the one hand, while aiming to innovate and remain an attractive sport on the other.

Last May, I was delighted with the choice made by the World Sailing Council to include Kiteboarding for the 2024 Olympic Games. It came as a fantastic recognition for the kiteboarding community and I believe it will bring an element of modernity to our sport. However, we must take further steps in our aim to embrace the whole sailing community and showcase the full diversity of our sport: diversity remains one of our main assets.

We have now reached a crossroads and the international sailing community has a decisive choice to make to become more inclusive. Every World Sailing stakeholder should therefore ask themselves this one key question: how could we possibly reject the majority of the sailing community by not holding an offshore sailing event at the Olympics?

That is why, on behalf of the French Sailing Federation, I will ask the World Sailing General Assembly, during the 2018 Annual Conference in the USA, to include an Offshore sailing event to the Paris 2024 Olympic program.

The concept is exceedingly simple, easy to understand and attractive to the media: a 3 day / 2 night battle between mixed crews on a one-design keelboat. The first team to cross the finishing line wins the Olympic title. We now have an opportunity to bring the great stars of Offshore sailing to the Olympics and potentially mix them with traditional Olympic sailors for an incredible challenge. The last Volvo Ocean Race fully demonstrated the will and skills of Olympic sailors to partake in such Oceanic events.

Imagine the longest event of the entire Olympic program showing the skills and courage of our sailors, showcasing the natural beauty our coastlines, with full connection with the media and the fans who can easily participate through e-sailing applications. This would dramatically improve our global media coverage and would definitively increase the revenues generated by our sport at the Olympic Games, at a time when this issue has become critical for World Sailing.

We have nothing to lose and everything to gain in making that choice, as we have already received enthusiastic support from the International Olympic Committee and the 2024 Olympic Games Organizing Committee. I am convinced that all together we can, and will, make this critical decision to give our sport the full recognition it deserves.

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