A potentially significant development
Published on November 24th, 2019
Due to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on July 24-August 9, the World Championship schedule for the included classes is getting shuffled over the next few months, with a significant spotlight aiming in the Southern Hemisphere.
While the focus during this time of year had typically been toward rest and holidays, and then training in Miami for the World Cup Series in January, the 49er, 49erFX, Nacra 17, Finn, Laser, Laser Radial, and RS:X are punching out 2019 and 2020 World titles through February in New Zealand and Australia.
The combined class management of the skiffs and catamaran gets the party started, and their heightened interest in profiling their high performance boats has led a unique partnership with a technology company to provide worldwide audiences with access to live and on-demand coverage from the race course.
Their Oceania Championships (November 25-27) and World Championships (December 3-8) in Auckland, New Zealand will offer a look at what’s possible when they combine tracking of all boats, on board and course located cameras, drones, and commentary.
American Charlie McKee, a bronze medalist in the 49er and now a coach in the class, sees this as an interesting and potentially significant development. He shares his view here:
In the larger, more commercially-oriented aspects of the sport (America’s Cup, SailGP, The Ocean Race, etc), there have been some good strides in presenting sailing to a wider audience, but this has not happened as much or as well in the small boat and Olympic arenas.
In addition, changes in Olympic sailing to accommodate spectators have been both controversial and not always perceived as successful. Running double-point medal races on very short courses on spectator-friendly (but often fluky) courses close to land, and changing Olympic classes to meet perceived International Olympic Committee demands, have all been criticized.
But these upcoming events are perhaps a happy confluence of several factors coming together. These three classes are ideally suited to short course racing. If you wandered around the boat park polling the sailors, most would not want longer courses, to sail less races or easier boats, or to race further from shore.
Running three major-class World Championships at the same time and televising it is a big ask, but if anyone can pull it off it is the sailing-mad kiwis.
If you tune in for the 49er/FX/Nacra 17 Oceania Champs (pre-worlds; Sunday-Tuesday in the US), you will likely see a display of skill, athleticism, and close tactical racing from some of the top sailors in the world.
It may also prove to be a successful merging of televised high performance racing, the desires of the sailors, and the mandates of the IOC.