Be bold World Sailing, be bold

Published on December 9th, 2020

The ever acerbic Magnus Wheatley lets loose on the topic of Olympic equipment from his perch in the United Kingdom:


A camel is just a horse designed by committee. The Olympics is a camel on steroids with the announcement that ‘breakdancing’ is to be on the Paris 2024 roster in the IOC’s eternal quest to appeal to the ‘yoof’ of today.

I think of myself as a broad-minded individual and to be honest, I will probably watch the breakdancing out of curiosity, but does it hold true to the ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ mantra of the greatest show on earth? Hardly.

However, the Games have been merely a spectacle for some time – I went to Athens in 2004 and realized there and then that the whole shebang is a made-for-television exercise. Does it appeal to the ‘yoof’ of today? I trialed it on my teenage son – he just laughed. He won’t be watching. Olympic breakdancing “is just embarrassing.” Oops IOC, oops…

Olympic sailing, meanwhile, is getting there despite having just been walloped by a 20 athlete reduction but the Paris 2024 roster is heartening with its focus on inclusion. The number of mixed events in sailing is brilliant and I sincerely hope that the IOC gets over its concerns around the offshore double-handed event and fully embraces it. This is a major step forward. It’s different. Give it a go.

I like the look of Paris 2024 – or Marseille 2024 as we in yachting should call it – and whilst the traditionalists bemoan the demise of the Finn and the Star, let’s be honest, they are dinosaurs of a different era.

Yes they have a place. Yes I would chop my right testicle off to sail a Star – it’s my lifelong sailing ambition to race one, just once – and yes they cater for those of a significant build and athleticism (fat boys basically) but they’ve had a good run in the Olympics and it’s over. They aren’t coming back. Sorry. Spectacle sailing has moved in.

The 470 is on life-support and I do still struggle as to why it’s there. Okay they’ve regenerated themselves and gone mixed – which is to be applauded – but they too belong in another era. The Laser has seen better days (and the class can’t stop shooting itself in the foot) and I would argue that the International Moth would be a more relevant one-person dinghy or something similar that foils with a one-design element.

Whisper it quietly, but windsurfing is also a bit past its sell-by-date these days and let’s be honest, who is going to watch windsurfing over kite-foiling? Remember this is a spectacle and windsurfing races, unless on foils, are dull as ditchwater. Nacra 17s anyone? Um….struggling with that one also.

So World Sailing has some wriggle room here when the 2028 Games comes around.

For sure, sailing is going to be slimmed again and I would urge the myriad committees to really get thinking about what makes for a true spectacle that shows sailing in a modern, progressive light and look at what really works on TV and the internet. Cutting down the classes wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. And full inclusivity with completely mixed events would be a step-change in the profile of our sport.

We are so very nearly there. It’s now about tweaking around the edges and jettisoning the classes from a bygone age. Be bold World Sailing, be bold.

Editor’s note: Magnus may have missed the memo that windsurfing for Paris 2024 is in fact on foils (goodbye, RS:X), though the Nacra 17 has been behind the curve in foil progression, plus it needs more capable female helms. Perhaps we’ll see both in Marseille, France.

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