Debating future of Olympic windsurfing

Published on May 20th, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
With decisions to be made as to the Equipment for the 10 Events at the Paris 2024 Olympics, there weren’t a lot of surprises at the 2019 World Sailing Mid-Year Meeting.

While the debate whether to retain the Laser Equipment for the Men’s and Women’s One Person Dinghy got a lot of attention (it was retained), the decision not to make a decision for the Men’s and Women’s Windsurfer proved to be the shocker.

Retaining the RS:X Class was deemed a lock after it was approved by the evaluation committees and the Board of Directors, but the all-powerful World Sailing Council got the final vote, and their vote was for further review to occur.

The Council was likely swayed by the ‘evolve-or-die’ sentiment which was pleading for foiling Equipment. This doesn’t mean the RS:X won’t ultimately  get approved but rather the delay gives the Council some credit for listening to 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED) and others.

The reaction of the RS:X Class was predictable. Having been the Equipment for windsurfing since the 2008 Olympics, and eager for Paris 2024 to be their fifth turn, Class Organizations want to stay in the Olympic family. Here is their response:

The International RS:X Class note with some disappointment the decision to reject the World Sailing Boards recommendation to retain the RS:X for the 2024 Olympics. Instead, the World Sailing Council voted, with 23 votes against and 19 in favour, to open up the men and women windsurfing events to sea trails and, sadly, put the sport of windsurfing into limbo for a further six months.

The World Sailing Boards recommendation came at a time when there is a significant amount of instability in the sport and was very much aligned to the RS:X Class desires for stability and growth.

The RS:X Class looked to promote to World Sailing a managed change of equipment over the next 9 years through to 2028 which would cause the minimum amount of disruption to the sport and would not undermine the investment of the large number of countries around the world that support the RS:X.

Through its Emerging Nations Program, the RS:X Class has worked tirelessly to promote windsurfing to a number of new nations, with a heavy focus on female participation which culminated in a hugely successful two week camp in Palma at the beginning of April. This work will continue over the summer and will look to support more nations attending the 2020 Olympic Games.

This work with emerging nations has been carried out to fulfill the RS:X responsibilities to World Sailing, where windsurfing as an event represented universality to World Sailing. The RS:X Class has 63 nations that have competed within its fleets since 2016 and remains the most accessible class in terms of facilities required for participation.

The RS:X is also the equipment for the Youth Sailing World Championships which further enhances a joined up pathway from Techno through to RS:X senior racing.

However, the RS:X Class welcome the opportunity to showcase its abilities alongside the rest of the Windsurfing community to present a complete package that can be raced from 4 to 35 knots safely, whilst being one of the most affordable Olympic classes to date.

The 2019 RS:X Youth Europeans in Palma also highlighted the longevity of the equipment with Youth sailors being able to access quality equipment that despite its age, is still competitive in the Youth fleets. This supply chain of used equipment to support growth in the sport will be hard to match when looking at growth and universality within the trials.

Finally, the RS:X Class would welcome an open, transparent debate with any nation who have concerns with regards to the equipment or the class in terms of development or participation. The RS:X Class will continue to work with its existing countries and programs, alongside World Sailing, to showcase the best that windsurfing has to offer to the Olympics in 2020 and beyond.

The RS:X Class would like to thank all of those countries, sailors, and coaches who are supporting the works toward the main event of Olympic Games in Japan in 2020, and the ambitions of the RS:X Class – to show the rest of the world that Windsurfing is a sport for life.

The Class is welcoming any collaborative discussion/interaction, on the important issue of the selection of the equipment for 2024, between all the key players of the windsurfing discipline, in a professional and transparent way and procedure, avoiding personal, and/or pure business speculation against the spirit of sport behavior.

The Class will continue to work in the interest of the majority of sailors, with no discrimination in a democratic, open, fair and transparent manner.

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